Agatha Christie's Marple - why do they call it that? It's not as if there's any need to avoid confusion,because Dorothy L. Sayers or someone else also wrote about a character with that name. What's more, I had one or two reservations about the casting of Julia Mackenzie as the great spinster sleuth, and I decided not to watch the adaptation of The Pale Horse, when it was first shown two years ago, because it introduced Jane Marple into a very good story in which she never appeared. It all seemed like a recipe for disaster.
But one or two Christie fans told me that this was one of the best adaptations of her work in recent years, so I decided to give in, and have a look at it. And to be honest, I'm glad I did, because on the whole, it was a pretty good piece of entertainment, despite the radical changes made to the original. The screenplay was written by Russell Lewis, a very experienced writer. I've never met him, but long ago he was mooted as someone to adapt the Harry Devlin books for TV. Sadly, that never happened.
The opening of the story is very different from that of the book. A vicar - played by Nicholas Parsons - is beaten to death after visiting a dying woman. But he is an old pal of Miss Marple, and has already sent her a mysterious letter containing a list of names and a reference to the Book of Revelation. Her enquiries quickly lead her to a spooky hotel deep in rural England called The Pale Horse.
The cast was excellent, including such stars as Neil Pearson, Pauline Collins and Nigel Planer. With a couple of exceptions, over-acting (which really kills the televised Christies) was avoided, thank goodness, and I thought Julia Mackenzie did well enough in the part to overcome my doubts. All in all, very watchable, if very different from the original, which was definitely one of the best Christies written after the 1950s, and a book that's certainly worth reading if you are unfamiliar with it.