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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 3 January 2009
Imagine the setting circa 1960. Mrs Christie has a sharp eye for contemporary fashions (hairstyles like birds nests, thick jumpers worn for dinner) and mores (coffee bars, flower shops that sell one bloom in masses of maidenhair). Instead of Poirot and Miss Marple, we have Mrs Oliver and Mrs Dane Calthrop (I love the way she mixed and matched detectives). The central character, Mark Easterbrook, is a serious, bookish man who stumbles across some odd happenings and begins to add two and two when he bumps into an old friend, now a forensic pathologist. The central 'case' is seen from many angles (and more than one narrator), and its elements are only linked by the mysterious phrase 'the pale horse'. It turns out to be a former pub now inhabited by three eccentric ladies of a certain age who are only too happy to tell you about their hobby - black magic. Can they possibly be linked to a list of names whose owners turn out to be rather dead? Easterbrook and a picture restorer called Ginger are determined to find out. Their search leads them from mansion flats to boarding houses to dusty offices in Birmingham to draughty country vicarages. Now read on!
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on 18 August 2017
Excellent condition
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on 3 June 2017
Absorbing tale
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This is a chilling mystery which starts with a death which may or may not be natural almost immediately followed by the murder of a priest - Father Gorman - on his way home from talking to the dying woman. She has given him a list of names and she wants him to stop something awful happening. When writer, Mark Easterbrook - with the intermittent help of his friend - Mrs Ariadne Oliver - starts to investigate he finds that the only connection between the names is that they are all dead.

Several unconnected pieces of information come together for Mark as he starts to investigate including a violent quarrel between two women which he himself had witnessed. Then there's the mysterious women who live in a converted pub - The Pale Horse - and who claim to be able to influence people they've never met in a most sinister way. Mark and his friend Ginger decide to investigate further but the more they dig into the mystery the more frightening it all seems to get.

This is a totally frightening mystery and I for one didn't work out what the solution was. Christie really does convey a huge sense of menace from an unseen adversary. I stayed up long past my bed time because I really had to find out what the cause of the apparently natural deaths and how it was all worked out. The ending definitely isn't what I was expecting.
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on 25 September 2016
The Pale Horse has long been one of my favourites. It's wonderfully macabre and atmospheric, and very, very clever.

The book even saved someone's life, because a reader recognised the murder mechanism being used on a real person and contacted the police. In another case, an already-completed murder was discovered through the same symptoms.

If you've read Christie's biographies and are aware of her wartime work in a pharmacy, you'll enjoy extra resonance here. It also seems like Ariadne Oliver channels a lot of Christie's own views here, perhaps even more so than usual.

The Pale Horse is also one of the books where I suspect Christie didn't fully decide on the murderer until the end. As someone who writes murder mysteries myself, it's surprising how easy it is to switch the murderer at the last minute. Partly because you have to lay red herrings throughout, so you can simply turn them into the actual crime.

I still feel I would have liked more revelations about the also-ran suspect (who wasn't the murderer). Christie builds a lot of mystery around that person, but it doesn't feel very resolved.

The 1996 Colin Buchanan film version is quite enjoyable but deviates significantly. I haven't seen the more recent one, as the post-Hickson Marples have been generally dreadful (due to the scripts, not so much the actresses) and of course, Jane Marple isn't even in the original text for this novel. Like many Christie novels, this one is really calling out for a decent, accurate, generous-budget treatment. They don't gain viewers or fans by needlessly altering plots.
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on 16 March 2013
At first I wasn't quite sure about this title, not being a fan of black magic and seance's . How wrong was I to doubt Agatha, she has the knack of leading everyone up the garden path. The story had very little to do with the occult. A well deserved five star rating. Kindle readers get on this magnificent crime writer. You can't go wrong.
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on 26 July 2015
I’m not precisely sure at what point I starting approaching the works of Agatha Christie with a certain apprehension, worried that her position in my affections was becoming rather precarious, but The Pale Horse feels like a shot in the arm following the disappointment of her three previous novels. She was 71 when it was published, and by common consent with her best days behind her, and this is a rich, dense and immensely rewarding book that only falls short of classic status simply because of the high standard she had already set (this is the woman who wrote The Moving Finger, after all).

The plotting is brisk and efficient – the antithesis of, say, 4.50 from Paddington – taking the same sort of nebulous setup (here it’s whether a trio of witches are killing people through psychic means) and building it in a convincing, propulsive and mesmeric way that harks back to the pinnacle of her powers. The first appearance of Mr. Bradley, hinting at the layers involved, reveals a scheme of breathtaking cunning and knavery that feels like a John Dickson Carr plot and really warrants duly-impressed applause, and the gradual piecing together of the inevitable arrangement of matters is convincingly multi-faceted and expertly wrought.

Ariadne Oliver pops up for a few cameo scenes, and has really grown on me over the books; she’s a delight here as she was in Dead Man’s Folly, and it feels like this was a dimension Christie needed to add to her writing to keep herself interested. Her other characters are a little archetypal, but the plot they’re put through is utterly wonderful and contains some of the sharpest writing Christie had done for a while. I found final workings a little tame, but I think that’s in part the book is a victim of its own success elsewhere – I wanted something amazing, and had to settle for something that merely made perfect sense and slotted together seamlessly.

I know, right? Some people are never happy...
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on 4 August 2012
This is unusual in that it is not a straight whodunnit, nor does it feature any of the author's usual sleuths, though there are a few characters appearing here who appeared in earlier books, notably Mrs Aridadne Oliver. The setting is unusual, too, amid the youth (well heeled, naturally)of Chelsea in 1961. It is well paced and the leading characters are sympathetic. The twist at the end is also well done. Superstition and black magic seem to play a prominent role, as in Murder is Easy. Recommended reading for those who can cope with a non-traditional mystery.
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on 28 August 2013
I chose this item as I have always loved spoken word and it makes the ironing much more bearable!

The item was dispatched very quickly and arrived very fast.

Item was in excellent condition, exactly as described. Very positive transaction!
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on 27 September 2013
This is not your usual Christie feast, but well worth the read. There's some black magic and superstition, suspicious deaths and a murderer that you might not get until the end. Lots of twists in the tale, danger for the main characters and some great names. It's not a Marple novel, though the TV series got her in there, just as they did with The Sittaford Mystery, which never featured her in the book, but got her involved in the TV plot! Though there is Ariadne Oliver in the story. A fun read if you like this kind of thing.
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