Parker Pyne Investigates – Agatha Christie

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?

19 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Harper Collins, Review, Short Stories

19 responses to “Parker Pyne Investigates – Agatha Christie

  1. I dont usually read crime novels simon but I did recently read Linwood Barclay’s ‘no time for goodbyes’ which was a really pleasant surprise, I forgot how well you can just loose yourself in a good crime pot line, I’d recommend it for a light but compelling read! Havent read any agatha christie books but maybe it’s about time I try them!? X

    • Ooooh I loved Linwood Barclay’s No Time For Goodbye I thought it was brilliant. In fact I don’t know why on earth I havent read any more of his books as I have two more and have been meaning to, thank you for the reminder. You have, have to read a Christie, she is a genius and most crime novels today owe something to her.

  2. I love your expression “something cleansing between reads”! That is exactly how I feel about crime fiction and exactly how I treat it. I agree about AC — she is reliably great. I’m not a fan of short stories but might well make an exception for these as they sound so good.

    • Ha I saw that you used that quote when you reviewed the Karin Slaughter (fabulous name for a crime writer) recently. I have since been out and come home with two of her books, the first two I think.

  3. I re-read Elephants Can Remember on holiday after many, many years and was surprised at how clever, shocking and modern Christie’s tale was. I still rank her as one of the best crime authors there is.

  4. Louise

    I have all her Miss Marple books in the fontana covers, i love them 🙂 ive never read a Poirot,nor have i watched him on the tv,he just doesn’t appeal 😉

    • I really, really love the older covers, there is something rather dated and yet timeless about them all at once. Not that that can technically happen but it does, well I think so.

      I’m weirdly unbothered by Poirot too.

  5. I’m not sure that I’ve read a Parker Pyne collection yet but I read the Harley Quinn short stories and they were certainly different. The Tommy and Tuppence short stories (first introduced in the novel ‘The Secret Adversary’) are also written in a different vein and don’t all revolve around murder. I’m quite fond of the Poirot short stories – they’re quick, clever and fun.
    I can’t think of a favourite Christie at the moment as most of these were read a long time ago. I am hoping to read and re-read all of her books in order.
    I was pleasantly surprised by Dorothy L. Sayers – have you tried her? I think her prose is superior to Christie’s but I can’t judge yet on plots. I’m reading Sayers in order for my As My Whimsy Takes Me Challenge this year.
    Crime/Mysteries is definately my favourite genre although I’m not into the gorier stuff at the moment.
    I hope you are recovering well 🙂

    • Oooh I havent heard of the Harley Quinn stories before, they sound like they could be something else thats rather different in the Christie cannon and should be looked out for.

      I have yet to try Dorothy L Sayers, maybe it is time I did?

  6. By the way, what Poirot game are you playing? Is it one of the adventure games or the hidden clues game? I love adventure games and have all 3 Agatha Christie games that were produced a few years ago. I find adventure games quite similar in some respects to reading a novel – except you can actually make decisions for the main character.

    • I have been playing Death on the Orient Express. I then tried And Then There Were None but I want to read the book and not have it spoiled by the computer game… how often do you hear a blogger say that??

  7. Jo

    I do not think any fan of Christie has a favourite novel. There are too many to chose from. However if I was to stick my head above the parapet I would go with 450 from Paddington which is a Marple book and everything about it is quite deliciously delightful.

    I have never read Parker Pyne and now off to badger my mum to see if she has the book. She has most others.

    • Hahaha you have probably just hit the nail on the head with your comment on their being too many Christie novels for anyone to have a single favourite, more like lots of them. I do love, love the 450 from Paddington though. I do interestingly have a least favourite so far…

  8. I ve not read this christie actually never heard of it ,my favourite is murder of roger ackroyd ,always seemed to have a biot more than her others ,all the best stu

  9. I love the Parker Pyne stories but my favorites are even farther away from Marple and Poirot — the Mr. Harley Quin stories. I think they are such a refreshing change from the other Christie stories (which I love nevertheless). Supposedly Christie thought the Quin stories were her favorites as well.

    • Did Christie really think that Kristen, if so then I REALLY have to give them a try in the none too distant future. I hadnt heard of them, or did I in the John Curran book and forgot, until they have been mentioned twice in the comments on this post.

  10. Brandy

    I LOVE Agatha Christie! In fact, right now I am reading the The Hollow. If I had to pick a fave, it would have to be Murder in Mesopotamia. I did read a short story collection once, it was called Three Blind Mice and other stories. I can’t remember the names of the other stories b/c it has been several years since I read it. All of the stories were good. I just think of Agatha Christie as a staple. However, I have never read any of the Marple books. I love the Poirot books so much, that I have this fear that I won’t like the Marple books as well (but i am weird like that)! I try to space out reading her books b/c i dont want to get to the point where i have read them all-I want there to still always be a new one for me to read.

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