Are you happy? Never fear. The answer lies in this book and the protagonist Mr Parker Pyne ‘a large, not to say fat; bald head of noble proportions, strong glasses, and little twinkling eyes’. He advertises in The Times daily under the one simple question Are You Happy? If not then consult Mr Parker Pyne.
What skills does this retired government officer worker of mainly statistics have to make people happy? Quite simply the observations of human nature which Agatha Christie does so effectively in all her novels. These are in fact short stories, and we are taken on many different cases of ‘happiness’ and we follow Mr Parker Pyne as he seems to achieve the unachievable with very little help either than suggestion and direction of his clients. There are jealous wives, men seeking adventure in retirement, missing jewels and even people with too much money but not wanting to give it away to charity. They all come to visit Mr Parker Pyne and in a few short pages and for varying amounts of money he has solved their problems. In the latter half of the stories Mr Parker Pyne is on his travels seem to attract the attention, he is well known across the globe it seems for his skill and ends up helping people in various parts of the Middle East and on ships and trains.
He has some help although merely in a staging role with Claude Luttrell and Madeline de Sara who help the unhappy people to be happy. There is his secretary Miss Lemon who obviously cut her teeth with Mr Parker Pyne before moving Richmond Street to Whitehaven Mansions or perhaps it was the other way round? And even the wonderful apple eating novelist Mrs Oliver ‘sat at a table on which were a typewriter, several notebooks, a general confusion of loose manuscript and a large bag of apples’. If you were in any doubt reading this that it was the same Mrs Oliver the apples confirm it is.
Christie is arguably most well known for two characters and a long running play (Poriot, Miss Marple and The Mousetrap). However, Parker Pyne Investigates is a gem of a book, and actually shows you in a very short space of the story how clever Christie is at formulating a plot and giving it the inevitable twists and turns keeping the reader hooked from beginning to end. Reading these wonderful short stories, you can see where perhaps latter writers or even television script editors have taken the basic idea and fleshed it out to make a two hour programme. I recognised some of the plots and outcomes from recent times. But then if you are going to borrow an idea why not borrow from the best.
Enjoy the short stories, they work and the book works as something to dip in and out of reading one story as they are not interrelated in any way apart from Parker Pyne. It is not about murder, poisoning, stabbings and shootings; these are just cases from people who are seeking to make themselves happy in their own world. There is an element of fun in them, that you are sure Christie enjoyed creating them as much as I enjoyed reading them. Have a change from Hercule and Jane, pull up a chair and share some time with Mr Parker Pyne.
This book suited me at the right time when I downloaded it onto my Kindle, as I was recovering from a sickness bug and needed something short, fairly light but not fluffy. Having spotted this on Savidge Reads it became a must and I must thank Simon wholeheartedly for pointing me in its direction – I really enjoyed it and glad I have read it, and I could quite easily read it again some time with no problem!
I love the ‘cover’ for this Kindle edition, the front of the newspaper. There is something about reading advertisements in newspapers and when I was researching my dissertation for my degree, I spent more time looking at the adverts from the archived newspapers than I did for the events I was meant to be recording. You can tell a lot by advertisements – although perhaps when someone looks back at advertisements from now they may wonder what comparison website adverts tell them at all!
3 thoughts on “Parker Pyne Investigates – Agatha Christie”
A lovely review – thank you! I too like the cover and I really must try to read this soon – I especially like the dipping in and out part. I was going to read AC in order but may try this one out of order, it’s so tempting 🙂
I hope you’re feeling better and are recovered.
I thought that I might reread this one when Simon wrote about it, but I didn’t actually pick it up when I saw it in the library. Now you have convinced me that I must pick it up. When I read it in my teens I didn’t realize the significance of Miss Lemon and Ariadne Oliver, but now I do and I think I may appreciate the subtleties a little more than I did then. Hopefully the library’s copy will appear again soon.
Thanks for posting such an interesting review.
I thought I knew Agatha Christie books so well, but I have to admit that I have never come across Parker Pyne before.
Knowing Christie’s great ability with in-depth characterizations, I should think that short stories would bring this talent to the fore, so I shall be searching this book out ASAP.
Thanks for the recommendation.