Reviews

‘A marvellous entry in this excellent series, one of those books that  you have to keep reading but hate to finish. Highly recommended.’ [Stage Fright]

- MYSTERY WOMEN

Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse: funny AND scary

The_Pale_Horse_First_Edition_Cover_1961Mark Easterbrook goes to see his writer friend, Mrs Oliver, to ask her to open a church fête. Mrs Oliver “in a state apparently bordering on insanity, was prowling around the room, muttering to herself . . .

‘But why,’ demanded Mrs Oliver of the universe, ‘why doesn’t the idiot say at once that he saw the cockatoo? Why shouldn’t he? He couldn’t have helped seeing it! But if he does mention it, it ruins everything. There must be a way . . . there must be . . .’

She groaned, ran her fingers through her short grey hair and clutched it with a frenzied hand. Then, looking at me with suddenly focused eyes, she said, ‘Hallo, Mark. I’m going mad,’ and resumed her complaint.'”

Feeling in need of comfort reading the other evening, I chose an Agatha Christie that I hadn’t read for a while. It’s definitely one of my favourites among her later novels: a feisty heroine, a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, superlative plotting – and it’s funny too. One of the things I so much like about Christie is her ability to laugh at herself. That’s always engaging. For Mrs Ariadne Oliver (brilliant name!) is a thinly disguised version of Agatha Christie (with a tiresome Finn instead of a Belgian as her fictional detective). And what amused me so much is that Mrs Oliver’s struggle to make her plot work is all too familiar to us lesser mortals toiling in the field of crime fiction.

By the end of Mark’s visit he has quite by accident happened to make a remark that offers Mrs Oliver a solution to her problem. And VERY SMALL SPOILER ALERT, she  in her turn has shed light on the plot of the novel. It’s beautifully done. Chapeau, Dame Agatha! There is no-one quite like you.

 

2 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    April 20, 2017

    This really is a good ‘un, isn’t it? I think what I like about it is that Christie shows that she can create a sense of foreboding and atmosphere. She doesn’t do that in all of her books; it’s good to remember that she had the skill.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      April 20, 2017

      Good to hear from you. Yes, I like that about it, too. The shiver up the spine . . . I also get the impression that though she took her writing very seriously, she didn’t take herself seriously, and that is always attractive.

      Reply

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