Father Gorman attends to one of his parishioners who, with her dying breath, asks for forgiveness and gives him a list of names with a wish that the evil be "Stopped ... it must be stopped ... You will see?" When Father Gorman was found murdered later that night, the police suspect that the murderer failed to find the crumpled list of names stuffed in Gorman's shoe and that the list was likely the reason he had been murdered. This list of names and a series of serendipitous events, happenstance conversations and fortuitous meetings put Mark Easterbrook, Dame Agatha Christie's ever-present amateur sleuth, onto the trail of a gang of ruthless murders for hire. But Easterbrook is terrified to discover that the murders seem to be committed by a coven of three odd witches dispatching their victims for a fee with a malevolent brew of witchcraft, psychic arts, black magic and the mere power of suggestion.
"The Pale Horse" retains many of the characteristics of Agatha Christie's earliest cozy mysteries - country fêtes and bazaars, afternoon tea, parish vicars and their long-suffering wives and the obligatory parlour room confrontation with the suspects. Agatha Christie even allows herself a cameo appearance in the novel in the person of twittering author Ariadne Oliver. But "The Pale Horse" also has a much more modern flavour as an aging Dame Christie brings her craft into London of the early sixties - Soho, Chelsea coffee bars, discussions of avant garde productions of Shakespearean plays in ways the bard would never have imagined, a more graphic approach to violence and brutality and a somewhat grudging if critical acceptance of the popular culture of London's younger people.
But the ending, whether you think of it as vintage mystery or new age police procedural, is classic Agatha Christie - a beautiful blind-side twist that no reader will see coming until it's right on top of you!
Highly recommended and thoroughly entertaining!