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In the novel The Pale Horse, Mr Venables is a wealthy man who lives at the village of Much Deeping in Devon.

Venables's house, Priors Court lies a few miles outside the village. Venables bought the house about three years before the events in the book. According to Rhoda Despard, the house was in bad condition and falling apart but Venables spent a lot of money restoring it. Rhoda believes Venables was an explorer or traveller of some sort as his house is filled with exotic works of art and cultural artefacts from all around the world. Venables can also converse on a wide range of topics from East or West Africa to Borneo. The source of Venables' wealth is, however, a mystery to the villagers.

Venables becomes a suspect in the murder of Father Gorman after a pharmacist Zachariah Osbourne told the police that he saw him outside his shop following the Father. Osbourne gave police a very definite description of him: thin, sloping shoulders, a very definite Adam's apple and a great beak of a nose. Subsequently, Osbourne wrote to tell the police to report that, by coincidence, he had come across the same man at a village fete in Much Deeping.

From Lejeune and Mark Easterbrook's point of view, Venables certainly seemed to be the man who has the intelligence to plan and manage the "murder-for-payment" scheme that linked to the murder of Father Gorman. However Inspector Lejeune quickly dismisses Venables as a suspect when he learns that Venables had polio and is confined to a wheel-chair. However he does use the air of suspicion over Venables to set a trap for the real murderer, a process which was achieved with cooperation from Venables himself.

At the end of the book, Lejeune tells Mark Easterbrook off the record, that Venables might be the person who some years before had executed a series of brilliant bank robberies. The mastermind planned the operations and worked through others and was never caught. However there is no conclusive evidence to pin down Venables. Certainly, the Inland Revenue service is interested in the source of his wealth. To Mrs Ariadne Oliver he said that he had settled in Much Deeping precisely because he did not know anyone there. He also admitted to Mark Easterbrook that he did not need to work all his life to acquire his wealth: "one must plan one's coups--and that involves quite a lot of planning--but there is no need, really no need nowadays, to serve any sordid apprenticeship." But equally these remarks could apply to making sound financial investments.

Portrayals[]

In the 2010 ITV adaptation The Pale Horse (Episode 1, series 5 of Agatha Christie's Marple), Venables is portrayed by Nigel Planer. Just like in the original, he is framed by Osbourne. Venables assists in the denouement staged by Lejeune and Miss Marple. In addition, he and Lejuene also staged a scene for the benefit of Osbourne who was outside the house watching with Miss Marple. Lejeune sat in a wheelchair and then got up to close the curtains, leading Osbourne to think Venables was faking his paralysis. In the adaptation, Venables had been to a traveller who had been around the world but had caught his polio at the Eastbourne Lido. His wealth is a mystery to the villagers but there is no suggestion here that he had come by the money through dishonest means. He has a feud with Captain Cottam as he wants to buy over Cottam's land.

In Le cheval pâle, the French adaptation for the series Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie, the parallel character is Eugène Dacosta.

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