Amazon’s coming out with an adaptation of The Pale Horse this month and I realized when I looked at a synopsis that I hadn’t read the book, so I decided to amend that ahead of watching the series. Going in, I knew there’d probably be major changes made for the TV show, and now that I have read it, I’m certain of it. To be blunt, this is bottom-tier Christie and a puzzling choice for adaptation. The plot is transparent and thin, with a creaky supernatural element that does nothing to create suspense or intrigue. Neither of Christie’s super-sleuths are on the case here, and even though the recurring character Ariadne Oliver is on hand, she is strangely relegated to the background.
Instead, regular bloke Mark Easterbrook narrates most of the action as he tries to get to the bottom of a series of puzzling deaths. Outside of some oblique references to his interest in Easter architecture, Easterbrook is a non-entity of a character with no sleuthing capabilities beyond perseverance.
As for the mystery itself, a parish priest is murdered on his way home from attending a deathbed confession. The only clue is a list of names he had squirreled away in his shoe. Upon investigation, the names all seem to be connected to recent deaths. But all of the deaths were by natural causes, with no foul play suspected.
Mark and his gal pal Ginger become concerned with a group of local witches who live at the titular Pale Horse, an abandoned inn. The trio of weird ladies have some odd ideas about remote suggestion and the death wish, but surely they can’t really be killing people by magic from hundreds of miles away?
I think you know the answer to that one. Which is of course a big problem. Anyone with any familiarity with Christie will figure out that there must be something else going on.
Agatha Christie wrote something like 80 mystery novels, so I guess it’s not too surprising that occasionally one of them turns out to be a dud.