Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie

The House at Shiraz

published 1934








A house all tiled in blue and rose and yellow, set in a green garden with water and orange trees and roses. It was, he felt, the house of a dream. [The consul tells him:] “An Englishwoman’s got it now. You must have heard of her. Lady Esther Carr. Mad as a hatter. Gone completely native. Won’t have anything to do with anything or anyone British.”

[But she agrees to see Parker Pyne]

He was taken through the dark garden and up an outside staircase that led round to the back of the house. From there a door was opened and he passed through into the central court or balcony, which was open to the night. A big divan was placed against the wall and on it reclined a striking figure.

Lady Esther was attired in Eastern robes, and it might have been suspected that one reason for her preference lay in the fact that they suited her rich, Oriental style of beauty. Imperious, the consul had called her, and indeed imperious she looked. Her chin was held high and her brows were arrogant.



observations: After yesterday’s look at the Agony Column, and a recent piece about advertizing in crime fiction at Margot Kinberg’s lovely blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, it seems only right to revisit the king of the personal ad, the wonderful Mr Parker Pyne, who puts out this advert every day:




In an earlier entry on this collection of short stories, I said that in general I preferred the ones where Mr PP sits in his office in London and solves people’s problems. That is true, but still, this is my favourite of all the stories. He is travelling in Iran (called Persia then), comes to the city of Shiraz, hears about Lady Esther Carr and takes a hand. There are familiar Christie themes here – the eyes, ladies, foreigners, madness – but still it’s a touching and unusual story, sentimental but in a good way. Mr PP talks of London at length to Lady Esther, and the conclusion he draws from her responses is the key to the story, even if we don’t exactly have an equal opportunity to guess the truth.

Christie herself travelled extensively in the Middle East and what was then known as the Near East with her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan: she used the exotic locations for many of her stories and her books.

Another PP story is here, other Agatha Christie all over the blog: click on the label below.

Another lady being consciously eccentric in Oriental clothes in this book, with this picture:




The top picture is by Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, from the Athenaeum website.

12 comments:

  1. I will be reading AC this year - promises, promises - but not this one. Unless I am stunned and amazed by whichever tome I do read and subsequently feel compelled to go and find all 3000 books by her, including this one.

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    1. I'd say that's probably about right - much as I like them, they are not for everyone....

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  2. I have yet to read any of Christie's short stories, but I am going to read a book of Tommy and Tuppence stories (Partners in Crime?) very soon, so I may get to this one some day. I usually avoid short stories but have lately determined that I need to branch out and try some.

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    1. I'm not usually a big fan of short stories at all, but I make an exception for Christie (and Sherlock Holmes, and Fr Brown.) I think Partners in Crime is one where T&T solve each different crime in the manner of a different fictional detective. It's quite entertaining, because several of the parodied ones are completely forgotten now, the reader doesn't really know what they're talking about....

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    2. I must have read that somewhere (about the parodies) but I had forgotten. Looking forward to it even more now. Probably read it in February.

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    3. I'll look forward to the review, I might pick it up again when I've seen your opinion.

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  3. Moira - First, thank you for the kind mention. I like Parker Pyne too, and I can see why you think this is such a good story. I have the feeling Christie enjoyed writing about exotic locations such as this one; I really do. There's just something about her descriptions that picks up on the 'adventure' aspect, I suppose. And you're quite right about Parker Pyne and his personal ads. So intriguing!

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    1. Thank you for the inspiration Margot! There's something about this one that I find very satisfying.

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  4. How about the Mr Quin stories and Mr Satterthwaite?

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    1. I did always love those - I think they'd have been my faves 25 years ago, but now Parker Pyne has overtaken them... I loved the slightly mystical feel, the supernatural air about them....

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  5. I've never met anyone else who has read the Parker Pyne stories! and it's been so long that I need to read them again.

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    1. Oh yes, so glad someone else likes them, as you say, no-one knows about him. I re-read them every 5 years or so and always enjoy them....

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