Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie

The Case of the Rich Woman

published 1934









The name of Mrs Abner Rymer was brought to Mr Parker Pyne. He knew the name and he raised his eyebrows.

Presently his client was shown into the room.

Mrs Rymer was a tall woman, big-boned. Her figure was ungainly and the velvet dress and the heavy coat she wore did not disguise the fact. The knuckles of her large hands were pronounced. Her face was big and broad and highly coloured. Her black hair was fashionably dressed, and there were many tips of curled ostrich in her hat.

She plumped herself down on a chair with a nod.

“Good morning,” she said. Her voice had a rough accent. “If you’re any good at all you’ll tell me how to spend my money!”

“Most original” murmured Mr Parker Pyne.


observations: The Parker Pyne stores are seen as a minor part of Christie’s work. She wrote a dozen or so, and only half of them were of the original setup, where a client comes to PP’s office and pays money to be made happy – in others he is on holiday and comes across situations where he lends a hand or solves a crime.

But to me they are a delight, wholly separate from the Poirots and the Marples, really enjoyable short stories – unrealistic but fun, and complete in themselves. They are silly, but strangely memorable, and occasionally affecting, and you wonder if PP or Christie might have been onto something. If she hadn’t had such a huge success with her other books, she might have carved out a little niche with these tales. And, PP isn’t half as annoying as Poirot.

The basic setup is: A client comes to the office, having seen the small ad (above) in the newspaper. They explain what’s wrong to the maestro, pay some money, then go away. Then something happens to them – very, very varied events, you would never in a million years guess what is going to happen to Mrs Rymer – and then later everyone decides if they are indeed happier or not. So simple, so perfect: I wish there were more of them. Love, money, boredom, discontent – Mr Parker Pyne has a handle on all the ills of modern life. Oddly enough, he employs Miss Lemon and Ariadne Oliver, both of them better known from the Poirot books. Also on his staff: a temptress, Madeleine de Sara, and a lounge lizard, Claude Luttrell (possibly the best name in all of Christie) - and if that doesn't make you want to read them, you're a lost cause.

Links on the blog: Agatha Christie all over the place, click on the label below.

The picture is from the Library of Congress.

12 comments:

  1. Moira - Oh, thanks for putting the spotlight on Parker Pyne. He's a great character and often I think overshadowed by Christie's more famous creations. And I do just love the 'photo you've chosen for this post!

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    1. Thanks Margot! I was pleased with the photo, because I didn't want her to look like an old woman - this lady I thought looked statuesque without being ancient. And yes, I am a big fan of PP too.

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  2. Hi Moira, just letting you know that you are in my Featured Book Blog sidebar for August on Carole's Chatter. Have a great week. Cheers

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    1. Thanks Carole, and thanks for running your great regular features at Carole's Chatter http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/

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  3. I am not a short story reader, but I plan to sample all of Christie's detectives, so I will give some of these stories a try. Someday. The temptress and the lounge lizard (especially) do pique my interest.

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    1. Try one and see - they might not be your thing, but you can abandon them if you don't like the. I like them so much I re-read them all every few years.

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  4. I haven't read the Parker Pyne books for years. Thanks for reminding me of them! I remember enjoying them as a teenager.

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    1. That was me too, Sarah - I loved them as a teenager. I think it might have seemed then as though life really might be that simple when it came to finding happiness. Not so convinced now in cynical old age, but I still get enormous pleasure from these stories.

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  5. never understood the whimsical hoke of Pyne,Quinn and Satterthwaite.Had it not been under the Christie brand I doubt any publisher would have given them time of day..Pick up a Christie and we want bloody murder and sinister poisoning not lightweight pish

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    1. You're taking a harsh line! I do know what you mean, but I have a soft spot for them. But not as rigorous as the best books...

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  6. I like the Parker Pyne series much better than Tommy & Tuppence. Christie was so good at making formula fresh. Into all the unreality, she tosses tiny smackerels of humanity that make de Sara and Luttrell and most of the successive clients real, for an instant at least.

    (And I always think of Mr Satterthwaite in the Harley Quinn series as Somerset Maugham.)

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    1. Yes good point Marina, I would rather have PP than T&T any day. And smackerels is a great word, if I may say so.

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