Cool Down With AC – Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse Discussion

Masterpiece Mystery aired The Pale Horse last night. I was excited to get to know another Christie detective during our  Cool Down with AC read/watch-along, and I just loved Miss Marple. If you missed the movie last night on PBS, make sure you catch it while it’s available to view online!

The Pale Horse begins as an elderly priest is murdered while he is visiting a sick parishioner. The police believe that he has died during the commission of a robbery, but of course that seems a little convenient for Miss Marple. The deceased is a friend of hers and there is now ay that she is going to let the killer get away with it. After getting her hands on a mysterious list of names on a piece of stationery from an inn called The Pale Horse, Miss Marple decides to visit and investigate.

I think only with the first Poirot move have I guessed anything, and that was more from reading detective novels in general than knowing anything specific. I had no clue what the motive was, and last night I just suspected everybody at one point or another. My eleven-year-old cousin had figured out everyone but the mastermind.

For Discussion:

We have now watched four Christie movies. Thoughts?

Have you read the book and the movie? Which one did you like better? Did you get the feeling that one was more effective than the other at telling the story? What worked for you and what didn’t?

How did you feel about the use f the supernatural throughout the story? Did it add an extra set if chills and thrills? Did you feel as if it was out if place?

Tell me your theories. Did you guess either the killers or the motive before the reveal in the movie? What tipped you off? Were there clues you picked up along the way, or did you know what to look for based on prior experience with the book? Have you just given up all together?

Does Miss Marple remind you of any modern detectives? If so, which ones.

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Participants in this week’s discussion will be eligible to win a dvd set of all the movies in the watch-along, plus a few extras, courtesy of Acorn media and an assorted goody bag with some of my favorite Christie novels. If you have something to add to the discussion, don’t be shy!

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  1. Gosh, I’m finally back to blogging. I have to watch this one this afternoon or evening so I’ll be back tomorrow to discuss.

  2. I’ll admit I’ve never been a huge fan of the Miss Marple tales, as I’m a Poirot gal though and through. But after watching most of the Julie MacKenzie Miss Marples on PBS, I really started to like the actress, which in turn has endured me to the character of Miss Marple. So now, I’m hooked.

    I didn’t read The Pale Horse prior to watching the adaptation (this time) but I really did enjoy it. I watched it with no pre-conceieved notions and nothing by which to compare it. I didn’t know that the book does not feature Miss Marple (just found that out) but I liked how she was worked into the adaptation. And honestly, the character is really growing on me.

    I did figure out the killer, but unfortunately, could NOT figure out a motive to save me. Nothing made sense to me. There didn’t seem to be a relationship between the killer and the victims. But in hindsight, if I consider the “motive” to be mafia-like, and again, pure-evil, I guess it could all make sense. I knew all along it was not the “targetted” suspect. And I did pick up on the “clues” during the scenes with the victims (sometimes you see something that you have no idea is important…). But the on the motive, I was simply clueless. I’m wondering if the book does the motive more justice and whether it makes sense more….???

    I’ve always associated Miss Marple with the Jessica Fletcher charater in Murder She Wrote, perhaps that was the driving inspiration behind that series? One thing I do like about the Miss Marple character is that she is very un-assuming… she always says that people will talk to a “little old lady” from the country, and that is usually correct in the story.

    All in all, I completely enjoyed the adaptation and found that I watched more carefully (especially for clues) since I didn’t go into it already knowing the killer! I had to actually WATCH it to make sense of it!

  3. I love the Masterpiece productions of Agatha Christie’s novels. Wonderful settings. Can’t you just feel the English village, cozy but lurking evil all around you? However, last night’s Pale Horse left me with a question. Did the victims go to the Pale Horse Inn? Why did anyone need to go to the inn after having done the betting? I know why Miss Marple and the other characters traveled there. What did I miss?

    I was surprised that the young man waiting for the ambulance was able to describe the man on the corner so well. That made me suspicious of him, but I did not know who the murderer was until the end.

    One should be wary of unassuming little old ladies who sit in the corner with their knitting and watch what is going on in the room.

  4. I like watching the ITV boradcast sometimes better than the PBS versions because the PBS version usually cut and edit scenes. And sometimes that muddles the story to the point of I have no idea what is happening. I like most Marples butI love the Poirot. I like the way they adapt Miss Marple into this story.

    I read once, that you will meet the villain in every agatha christie novel by the second chapter of all of her books. So I try and guess who the killer is right at the get go. My luck it had to have been the preist who died.

    And am I the only one who tries to figure out which mysterious the other actors have been in?

    1. I love it when I see an actor in one mystery and then they turn up in another, maybe in a bit part in one and a more prominent part in another. I thought recently (but I will have to go back and check) that the actress who played the old woman in The Clocks (who very recently passed away) also played a part in another David Suchet/Poirot movie (maybe Dumb Witness??). Whether or not it is her, it is still a lot of fun to “actor search” through the episodes!!!

  5. I felt that the movie was a bit light on character development and unfortunately I had guessed at the villain as soon as I saw him because I recognized the actor and knew that he couldn’t have been playing just a bit part in the movie. I also thought that the police detective about half-way through was all of a sudden very solicitous to Miss Marple when up until that point he was insistent that she stay out of the murder inquiry. Overall, not my favourite adaptation but I still love Miss Marple.

    1. I agree the movie was light on character development. I too, recognized the actor who played the killer but didn’t think he was the killer until the end. I liked the police detective a lot, but agree it was odd he was frustrated with Ms. Marple then all of a sudden took her into his confidence and solicited her help. Like the other respondent, Rebecca Brooks, I didn’t understand the meaning of the Pale Horse. The inn worked very well for creating intrigue and suspense but really made no sense. I was thrown off by the betting plot and believe that lawyer character was introduced too late in the movie. Also, I found it odd that the first dying woman could remember all those names to tell the priest. She was in great agony and, in fact, dying. I can understand her wanting to make a confession but to remember so much detail doesn’t seem natural.

  6. While I do adore Miss Marple, she just has no place in this movie. I really don’t mind most of changes made for movie adaptations, but putting characters in and leaving others out is getting quite on my nerves. That being said, I will grudgingly admit that the movie was really good! The role of Mr. Osborne in the book is of an older man, and I was spectacle of the young, handsome Osborne of the movie. But the character is so different that I forgot all about the book and got hooked on the transformation from the nice guy helping out Miss Marple to the creepy lunatic at the end. It was really well done.

    Jessica Fletcher does remind me of Miss Marple- both female amateur detectives, though the similarity ends there. More modern than that? Maybe Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer. I think both characters aren’t taken seriously at times.

  7. I read the book in preparation for the movie. I kind of gotten used to guessing that the supernatural explanation is always a smoke screen in Christies books. Still that didn’t mean I knew who was the murdered or how the mystery would work out~

    I liked both the book and the movie for different reasons, I liked the book because it’s a new narrator and the whole Pale Horse shanannigan was simply hard to figure out and I was surprised in the resolution. But I think the movie is a good adaptation for those not as familiar with Christie’s work or maybe for those who are *too* familiar (?) because it brings in Miss Marple! I really liked the actress int his adaptation (I forgot her name). Because the set up is slightly I thought maybe the ending/the killer would be someone different (so again, I was surprised!) and it would be the man in the wheelchair (I forgot his name too!).

    Ahh I don’t know many modern detectives that Miss Marple could remind me of. Oh and I loved the partnership of the inspector and Miss Marple in this adaptation 🙂

  8. I have now read all four books and seen all four movies. My favorite for both the book and movie was the Pale Horse. I also enjoyed Hallowe’en Party. The Clocks and Three act Tragedy were my least favorite respectively. I did like the use of the supernatural in The pale horse and I could not figure out how the witches were making the people sick. It was quite a complicated set up that required many people to make it work. I always get the killer wrong but I enjoy it that way. I like to have that oh! moment at the end of the book when you get the payoff. I think I enjoyed the books more than the movies because the books had complicated plots that I don’t think were always well translated in only an hour and twenty minute movies. I also take issue with the changes the movies make from the books. I think I prefer more literal adaptations. I did enjoy seeing Miss Marple even though she was not in The Pale Horse book. She is becoming my favorite Christie character. I think the actress got Marples slightly condescending, I see through your bull attitude just right. When Marple was giving it to Osborne, she was on fire. I liked the book slightly more for Pale Horse but the movie was definitely enjoyable as well. I can’t think of someone who Miss Marple reminds me of. I would say Jessica Fletcher but she always seemed to get respect. Miss Marple is insulted, some times even to her face, but she always has the last laugh. My favorite line from her so far was in Tuesday Night Murder Club when she tells an attendee at the dinner party that he was a man and therefor couldn’t possible understand the solution to the mystery. I love her.

  9. I just read THE HOLLOW and loved it. Has it ever been made into a PBS movie? It would be a delightful one.

    1. Not that I know of, and if it has, it might not be recognizable. PBS seems to take great liberties in adapting these novels. Miss Marple isn’t even in the book version of The Pale Horse.