Agatha Christie 100 - The Pale Horse

Another non-series mystery from Christie, though this one features a couple of appearances by Ariadne Oliver.

A Catholic priest is killed after having performed the last rites for a dying woman and hearing her confession. The only thing the police find with the priest is a list of names. Writer Mark Easterbrook becomes aware of this list and can identify a couple as people who have died recently. Recently, he has visited the three "witches" in their abode, "The Pale Horse", and when this name turns up in conjunction with the list of names, he is intrigued enough that he starts looking into what it all means...

Well, stating that this is an Ariadne Oliver novel is a bit misleading. As usual, that worthy lady only puts in a couple of appearances, though it is a chance remark from her that makes Easterbrook put two and two together and realise exactly what's been going on.

On the whole, Christie succeeds well with the whole creepy atmosphere of the novel. It isn't always easy using the occult in an effective way in a mystery - the risk is that it all starts to feel hokey - but it works rather well here. Easterbrook is a pretty good detective to use in this story - he doesn't really know what he's doing most of the time, but he muddles through in a fairly effective way nonetheless. 

Obviously, it's a bit of a coincidence that he should know so many people on that tiny list of names that he's able to make connections. But as it turns out, the police are further along in their investigations than anyone could have known, and it is in fact they who make the final connections and arrest the culprit.

One question remains, though: What on earth was the name Corrigan doing on that list of names?

I'll award this a 53 out of 100. It's a good read and should definitely satisfy the Christie fan. There's actually more detection in this one than, say, the contemporary Poirot Cat Among the Pigeons.

1962 1964 1975
1988 2004

Like so many other later Christie novels, this one also has five editions in Swedish. The title is of course derived from the Book of Revelations, and in the Swedish version of the Bible, the horse is not pale but yellow - hence The Yellow Horse (as a literal translation of the Swedish title would be).

The first cover above is serviceable, nothing more. The yellow horse is there, but again they do not make use of the entire page for the cover image, which to me seems a bit lazy. The Zebra edition from two years later is quite similar to what they've done elsewhere - a somewhat gritty, lurid image of a damsel in distress. Again, a plus for the extract from the novel on the cover page.

Delfinserien's cover from the mid 70s is a bit more imaginative and original. I like it quite a bit with the bottle emitting toxic fumes and the mild allusions to witchcraft. The cover from 1988 is less original, and quite why the yellow horse needs to jump out of a window is beyond me. (There is a hardcover variant of this cover with minor typographical differences.)

Finally, there was a large print edition of this title (Why this particular title? Beats me.) in 2004. I can't really make heads or tails of it. Is that image supposed to be a generic allusion to witches? It's definitely not great, at any rate.


  1. Sorry for going horrendously off topic here, but I've a question that you're best qualified to answer.

    If you go to the Dutch website of the VN Detective & Thriller Gids (liacs.leidenuniv.nl/~kosterswa/vnster/) and type Zweden in the searchbar (snel zoeken), it gives a list of more than 500 Swedish crime and detective novels that have been translated into Dutch. After getting introduced to Maria Lang, I wondered if there are any good Swedish detective novels that are easily available in my own language.

    1. No worries. I had a look at the list, and almost everything there is modern stuff, as you can see from the publication year. And to be honest, I have very little idea of what people in Sweden are writing today, because it's been so much grim stuff since at least the 90s.

      If I know your tastes, I think most of the older stuff would also be outside of your interest. You could take a look at Thomas Arvidsson - Enkelstöten or Dubbelstöten, perhaps. But otherwise, it's mainly police procedurals and modern crap.

    2. Well, it was worth a shot. Thanks for taking a look. Much appreciated!