12 March 2010

Review: PARKER PYNE INVESTIGATES, Agatha Christie

First published in 1934, the edition I read was published by Fontana/Collins in 1974. 158 pages.
The cover image to the right was the original one used on the dust jacket in 1934, and seems to me to be a good likeness of portly and avuncular Mr Parker Pyne.

This title is a collection of 12 of the 14 short stories that Agatha Christie wrote that featured Mr Parker Pyne.
The connecting thread between the stories is Mr Pyne's advertisement at the top of the Agony column of the respectable newspapers:

Mr Pyne's solution for each of the people who consults him is individual and very varied in the fees that he charges. The first 6 stories are set in England while in the last 6 stories Mr Pyne is on holidays travelling first on the Simplon Express, and then to some of Agatha Christie's favourite places in the Middle East such as Baghdad, the Nile, Shiraz and Delphi.

Many of the 12 stories had been individually published in the period 1932-4 but the overall the effect of the collection is like an episodic novel. Wikipedia gives you a lot more detail for each story than I am going to give here. You can also get some details of their publication history.

Mr. Parker Pyne states quite clearly that he is not a detective but 'a heart specialist'. Deception, accomplices and manipulation are all part of his method of operation and he works to cure unhappiness more frequently than to investigate crime.
  • The Case of the Middle-Aged Wife, apparently unpublished earlier
    Mrs Packington consults Mr Parker Pyne because her husband George has fallen for a young girl from the office. I was interested to meet Miss Lemon, whom I have always associated with Hercule Poirot, in this story.
  • The Case of the Discontented Soldier, August 1932
    Recently returned from East Africa Major Wilbraham finds London life very tame. Mr Parker Pyne not only creates adventure for him, he sends him on a treasure hunt. In this story Mrs Ariadne Oliver makes a fleeting appearance - another character I have always associated with HP.
  • The Case of the Distressed Lady, August 1932
    Daphne St. John is frightfully unhappy. She has stolen a diamond and doesn't know how to return it.
  • The Case of the Discontented Husband, August 1932
    Mr Reginald Wade adores his wife, but she seems to have fallen for another. Mr. Pyne has to list this case as one of his failures.
  • The Case of the City Clerk, August 1932
    Mr. Roberts has reached the age of 48, is "happily" married, but feels his life is very dull, so Mr Parker Pyne sends on a dangerous espionage mission to Europe.
  • The Case of the Rich Woman, August 1932
    Mrs Abner Rymer is living proof that riches don't bring happiness.

  • Have You Got Everything You Want?, April 1933
    Mr Parker Pyne is on holidays, and shares a train compartment on the Simplon Express with Mrs Elsie Jeffries who implores him to help her find out what her husband is up to.
  • The Gate of Baghdad, June 1933
    Mr Parker Pyne joins a tourist coach from Damascus to Baghdad, and one of his fellow passengers is murdered.
  • The House at Shiraz, April 1933
    Mr Parker Pyne flies to Shiraz from Teheran and offers his help to a young woman considered to be both a recluse and mad.
  • The Pearl of Price, July 1933
    Mr Parker Pyne travels from Amman to Petra with 6 other tourists.One of his fellow passengers loses a priceless pearl earring and Mr PP works out why.
  • Death on the Nile, July 1933
    This is not the story that features Hercule Poirot, but one about a lady who dies of poisoning.
  • The Oracle at Delphi, April 1933
    Mr Parker Pyne finds someone who is impersonating him, and takes great exception, in the process foiling an attempt at extortion.
These were very readable stories without being much more than that. The one I think I liked best was The Case of the Rich Woman, which was also the most improbable.

My rating 4.2

Mr Parker Pyne appears in 2 other short stories, one of which I have already read in Problem at Pollensa Bay published in 1935. Interestingly in this short story he is referred to as Christopher Parker Pyne, although in PARKER PYNE INVESTIGATES he is always referred to as J. Parker Pyne. The other story is one I haven't yet read The Regatta Mystery published in 1939.

2 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - Thanks for this review. I admit, I haven't read the Mr. Parker Pyne stories in a long time, so it was nice to be reminded of them : ). There are Christie works I like more than these, but as I've often said, in my opinion, Christie at her weakest is far better than many writers at their best.

Martin Edwards said...

I agree with you, Kerrie, and Margot. Entertaining, but quite a long way short of Christie's best.

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