I don’t know if it’s the way I am feeling during my recovery period from operation one but crime has taken over again and is close to pushing all Orange longlist reading out of the window. I have discovered a few new crime novelists of late but every so often you need to go back to the joys of the long loved masters and so I thought that it was time to turn my attentions back to Agatha Christie, I do have a rather large amount of her books to hand, and so I opted for one I new nothing about ‘Parker Pyne Investigates’.
How people can sneer about Agatha Christie and her novels. Whenever I am in need of something that I can just get completely lost in or when I need something cleansing between other reads then she is just the ticket. As ‘Parker Pyne Investigates’ not only does Agatha Christie show that she truly is the master of plots and twists, she also makes short stories look effortless and in this collection, which I wasn’t expecting to be a collection at all, she also shows a slightly different side to her mysteries which I found rather interesting.
Parker Pyne is not a detective; in fact the balding, plump middle aged man calls himself a ‘specialist in matters of the heart’ and believes he is a man who can make people happy. Every day he runs an advert in The Times newspaper ‘Are You Happy? If Not, Consult Mr Parker Pyne’ and in the first half of these stories that’s just what we read. Unhappy husbands, worried wives, disillusioned rich heiresses, etc pass through Parker Pynes doors and in each case he manages, with his trusty sidekicks ‘Claude Luttrell was one of the handsomest specimens of lounge-lizard to be found in England. Madeline de Sara was the most seductive of vamps’ in the most bizarre ways to make them happy. These might involve sending a bored clerk on an invented adventure murder with Claude or Madeline playing a role, sometimes though accidental adventures take over too. My favourite of this half was ‘The Case of the Distressed Lady’ which saw a story (and at only ten pages I can’t say too much on the plot) but it involves three twists none of which I saw coming.
The second half of these tales takes a very different twist as instead of Parker Pyne having the mysteries come to him in his office, the mysteries seem to come to him when he is on random trips abroad. Possibly the most famous short stories of this half of the book is ‘Death on the Nile’ which I thought was a Poirot story, I had no idea it was Parker Pyne. ‘Death on the Nile’ is also one of the few tales in the book that involves murder, in fact if you are after a murder collection best be off with Miss Marple or Poirot really, but interestingly the fact the crimes and cases in this book weren’t murders made it really stand out. You have con-artists, cheating spouses, kidnappers and jewel thieves instead and in the second half as I mentioned in destinations such as Egypt, Greece and Bagdad.
It’s also a book where you feel Agatha Christie is having fun with the storylines and characters such as the aforementioned Claude and Madeline and Miss Lemon, there’s almost a feeling that she had rather a delighted twinkle in the eye as she wrote these. I was very pleasantly surprised by ‘Parker Pyne Investigates’. I had expected to find a novel with a new detective of Christie’s that I had not happened upon before. Instead I got a very mixed array of short stories and crime filled capers that were half domestic mysteries and half mysteries of foreign foes and destinations. All in all this was, as all Christie books are, very enjoyable and yet really rather different from her other books. 8/10
I bought this book myself yonks ago when I was on an Agatha Christie Fontana edition spree.
Has anyone else read the Parker Pyne collection and been pleasantly surprised by how different it is, or did the difference put you off? Do you have a favourite Agatha Christie novel? Have any of you read any of her other short story collections you could recommend? Should I finally try a Poirot (I have actually become addicted to an Agatha Christie PC game while I have been recovering, ha) or is it time for another Marple next?