Book Review: The Pale Horse (Ariadne Oliver #5) by Agatha Christie (four stars)
“The murder part is quite easy and simple. It’s the covering up that’s so difficult. I mean, why should it be anyone else but you? You stick out a mile.”
Unexpectedly good mystery from a reader who generally avoids murder mysteries. The draw is the intersection of modern science and pop culture (parapsychology and hedge witch level occult). Classic Christie: she gives the reader more than enough clues. Perhaps too many.
“Murder by remote control isn’t murder in the eyes of the law. It’s just nonsense. That’s the whole beauty of the thing.”
The various investigators, wading through conflicting, seemingly impossible clues, forget Occam’s Razor. That said, Christie is unclear at the denouement of the chain of authority, if not causality.
“There is evil. And evil is powerful. Sometimes more powerful than good. It’s there. It has to be recognised—and fought. Otherwise we go down to darkness.”
Ariadne Oliver is Christie’s alter ego, a mature female writer of mysteries. She is not a major character in this story; don’t know about the others.
“Take your time. No hurry in the world. Take your time.”
Book Review: Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Agatha Christie (Four Stars)
“Ah!” said Miss Marple. “But I always find it prudent to suspect everybody just a little. What I say is, you really never know, do you?”
My first venture into the world of Miss Marple is the first Christie tale featuring her razor-witted elder. It’s a fun read. Suspects and motives abound, including the vicar himself, as the locals rush to convict each other in the tribunal of public opinion. Timely.
“In St. Mary Mead everyone knows your most intimate affairs. There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.”
Dated prose style does not detract because the setting and cast is quaintly rural English of a century ago. Nicely foreshadows both the red herrings and the denouement.
‘The young people think the old people are fools; but the old people know the young people are fools!”
Book Review: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christy (Four Stars)
“But you cannot escape from the logic of facts. Since the thing was so—it must be accepted.”
Mission Impossible meets Miss Marple. One of Christie’s earliest mysteries. Youthful antagonists are easier to identify with than her later, renowned sleuths. Identifiable charters and convoluted plotting are already evident. Mildly political in the sense of anti-Communist.
“I’ve often noticed that once coincidences start happening they go on happening in the most extraordinary way. I dare say it’s some natural law that we haven’t found out.”
This version was first published in 1922. The story first appeared in 1917 during the Great War whose conclusion is the springboard for the current version. Literary sleuths may wish to seek out the original version. It was not written as historical fiction because the politics of that era were current, but contemporary readers will get a good sense of the time and place.
“They are honest men—and that is their value to us. It is curious—but you cannot make a revolution without honest men. The instinct of the populace is infallible. Every revolution has had its honest men. They are soon disposed of afterwards.”
Quibbles: Christie hadn’t worked out the difference between revolvers and automatic pistols. She frequently shifts from one to the other in a character’s hands.
“There’s a difference between stealing a diamond necklace for yourself and being hired to steal it.” “There wouldn’t be the least difference if you were caught!” “Perhaps not. But I shouldn’t be caught. I’m so clever.” “Modesty always was your besetting sin.”