Rating: 3.5 out of five
Year of Publication: 1934
Motive for Crimes:
blackmail (Have You Got Everything You Want?)
identity (The Gate of Baghdad)
Parker Pyne offers a solution for unhappy people.
There are twelve problems:
First, a wife who suspects her husband to have fancied a younger woman must know the truth.
Second, a lonely Major who requires to do something he has been good at in a civilian life.
Third, a woman comes with a gambling debt paid by pawning a diamond.
Fourth, a husband who is reluctant to grant the divorce.
Fifth, a forty-eight-year-old city clerk whose life has little spark in it asks Mr. Pyne for a bit of adventure.
Sixth, a wealthy widow who wants to know how to spend her money. But little does she prepare for the subsequent events she will encounter.
Seventh, a young woman who travels with her dashing husband approaches Mr. Pyne on board of the Simplon Express. For her jewel case has gone missing. Does Mr. Pyne believe her story?
Eighth, a fellow traveller has been murdered at night on the road to Baghdad. Two theories emerge on the cause of death: stabbed at the back of his head or hit by a sandbag. The latter is suggested by the murderer.
Ninth, in Shiraz while taking a stroll Mr. Parker drops his card at a house, the abode of an eccentric Lady Esther Carr. What makes Mr. Parker want to see her?
Tenth, in Petra the daughter of an American magnate has lost her pearl ear ring worth £40,000. Among the suspects are the people who have been in the same tour; an archaeologist, a Member of Parliament, a military officer and Mr. Pyne.
Eleventh, a woman who complains to everyone round her has been found dead in her room on a ship during the Nile tour. As all passengers are being questioned, who has got the strongest motive to kill her?
Lastly, a curious circumstance arising following the kidnap of an eighteen-year-old lad on holiday with her mother in Delphi. Mr. Pyne ought to clear his name.
His advertisement is the thirties’ equal of nowadays ‘No Win No Fee.’ Lawyers are not required.
What appeals from the twelve cases in the book is some ordinary clients Mr. Pyne has agreed to take. The characters are a world apart from Murder in The Orient Express (see the Notes), which is published in the same year. The shadow of the Belgian sleuth might be behind the other man’s being less popular and less known among the avid fans.
It is interesting that both men have a number of similar traits. Perhaps not in their countenance, but their enjoying travelling and are well connected. Also, they have Miss Lemon as a super secretary. Although Mr. Pyne is as methodical as Poirot, the former does not seem to mention the work of his grey cells. Instead he plans either a splash of drama or a confidence trick in order to solve his cases.
Personally Mr. Pyne is more like Harley Quinn. There is a touch of mystery in Mr. Pyne. He describes himself to Major Wilbraham (The Case of the Discontented Soldier) saying: ‘you see, for thirty-five years of my life I have engaged in the compiling of statistics in a government office. Now I have retired and it has occurred to me to use the experience I have gained in a novel fashion…’ Be that as it may, those sentences are as good as Alan Turing’s saying during his interview to a Manchester Detective Inspector that he had worked in Bletchley radio factory during the War.
More about Mr. Pyne’s past career is while he is having dinner with the British Consul in Shiraz. The latter’s story about Lady Esther Carr has aroused Mr. Pyne’s curiosity. For he happens to know Lady Esther’s father, the former Home Secretary, under whom he used to work. In what capacity is anyone’s guess. His identity, however, is a sly humour of Christie’s which often appears in other books.
In creating a retired civil servant (ex-MI-6?) to do sleuthing jobs, it is apparent that Christie wishes to take a break from Poirot. For Mr. Pyne is a pleasant man; he might be quiet but approachable. If M. Poirot works alone, Mr. Pyne prefers to have two actors in his employ. He commissions Mrs. Oliver to stage a ‘saving a damsel in distress’ plot for Major Wilbraham. Unfortunately, one scheme fails to deliver in The Case of the Discontented Husband, partly due to Madeleine de Sara, one of the actors.
Another evidence is in the book title itself, which was on the press ten years after Poirot Investigates (1924). The last of Mr. Pyne’s case, Problem At Pollensa Bay (1935), appears first on the UK magazine (see the Notes). He seems to travels to more countries than Poirot and have more sensible sartorial choice than the other in hot climate.
Christie’s attempt to’ defy’ the almighty a little man with an egg-shaped head is in vain. Her frustration is channelled through Mrs. Oliver whom also grows a dislike towards her Swedish detective Mr. Finn. It does not help either that the amiable Mr. Pyne has received fewer nods from the avid fans. Did Christie discontinue Mr. Pyne due to the lukewarm reception? Or, did her publisher ask her to ‘kill’ the nice English man (supposing Mr. Pyne is English)?
Whilst the book has not gained he same glory as Murder On The Orient Express, the flow and the drama in Mr. Pyne’s cases are nearly as good as in the other book. For both books are teemed with Christie’s travelling to the Far East. Moreover is her having captured the happenings in the society in the post-war years. Her portrayals of arrivistes – the ‘in-betweeners’ in today’s lingo- and moral hypocrites are amusing and clever. The Pearl of Price is the exemplary example of Christie’s criticism towards them.
And therefore I suggest two ways to judge the book: either put it away if the expectations are for a thriller because Christie is not very good at writing one or go finish it if a test of ingenuity and the exploration of human psyche appeals more. Besides, her short stories work better than her novels.
– Claude Lutrell refuses Mrs. Crackington’s gift (The Case of the Middle-Aged Wife)
-Major Wilbraham and Freda Clegg would not find the ivory cache (The Case of the Discontented Soldier)
– ‘Jules’ only slips the diamond ring off Lady Dorthemeir’s finger, not replacing it (The Case of the Distressed Lady)
-Reginald Wade wants to marry Miss Madeleine de Sara (The Case of the Discontented Husband)
– The city clerk is sent on a trip to Geneva to the trick a mafia gang (The Case of the City Clerk)
– Amelia Rymer wishes to remain as Hannah Woodhouse (The Case of The Rich Woman)
-Edward Jeffries has an accomplice on board the train (Have You Got Everything You Want?)
– Colonel Smethurst is an old Etonian like Samuel Long, a mole (The Gate of Baghdad)
– Muriel King, a lady maid, believes that she will be blamed for the deadly accident occurred (The House of Shiraz)
-Caleb Blundell’s business has gone belly up (The Pearl of Price)
-Sir George Grayle does not poison his wife (Death On The Nile)
– Mr. Thompson is Parker Pyne (The Oracle at Delphi)
The Most Fascinating Character: Mrs. Amelia Rymer
‘I’m not going to let money come between me and my happiness’
She is extremely rich and lonely. Furthermore, she is bored; having yearned for company since her husband Abner died.When he was alive they put a Midas’s touch to every investment they had made.
As her frustration grows she decides to turn up at Mr. Parker’s office. ‘If you are any good at all you’ll tell me how to spend my money!’
Mr. Parker understands who she is and how different she is from the other clients. To my mind, the life of Amelia Rymer seems to reflect the life of her creator.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd catapulted Christie into the limelight. So when she was reported missing a few months later, the search mission became the police biggest operation in the year of 1926. Having checked in as Mrs. Neele the Swan Hotel in Harrogate, Christie had no idea whatsoever about her making the headlines on the paper. Nor did she expect a great crowd at the King’s Cross as she arrived at the station with Colonel Archibald Christie.
But Mrs. Rymer has no desire to disappear but a bit of interest in her life, possibly the replacement of Mr Rymer. Just as Christie, Mrs. Rymer is angry to have learnt that Mr. Parker might have deceived her. From a wealthy middle-aged woman to a simple farm woman Hannah Woodhouse, Mrs. Rymer tries to fight back at first but then accepts her new identity after some time. What triggers the change of heart is the presence of a new farm labour Joe.
Suppposing a banjo player in the hotel did not recognise Christie, would she remain incognito for a longer time? What difference would it have made? To this day her eleven days disappearance is still shrouded in mystery, having stated in her biography of having ad no recollections on it.
When a year has gone Mr. Parker comes to see ‘Hannah’ in the farm. ‘Come, Mrs. Rymer are you an unhappy woman now?’ he asks. She admits ‘No. I’m not unhappy.’ But what would she do with her money, of which has been presided over by Mr. Pyne during her ‘absence’?
If Christie jumped on the Simplon-Orient and searched her happiness along the rail tracks for Istanbul, Mrs. Rymer only needs to stay in England.
Amelia and Agatha have found their happiness when it is least expected.
Cast of Characters:
Parker Pyne’s employees:
Miss Lemon (Mr. Parker’s secretary)
Madeleine de Sara
The novelist: Mrs. Oliver
1. The Case of Middle-Aged Wife
The client: Mrs. Mary Crackington
George Crackington (Mary’s husband)
2. The Case of Discontented Soldier
The client: Major Charlie Wilbraham
Mrs. Oliver (the novelist)
3. The Case of Distressed Lady
The client: Daphne St. John/Ernestine Richards
The Dortheimers (Lady and Sir Reuben)
Gerald St. John (Daphne’s husband)
4. The Case of the Discontented Husband
The client: Reginald Wade
Irish Wade (Reginald’s wife)
Mrs. Massington (Irish’s friend)
5. The Case of The City Clerk
The client: Mr. Roberts
Maggie Sayers/Grand Duchess Olga
6. The Case of The Rich Woman
The client: Mrs. Abner Rymer/Hannah Moorhouse
7. Have you Got Everything You Want?
The client: Elsie Jeffries
Edward Jeffries (Elsie’s husband)
8. The Gate of Baghdad
The group leaving for Baghdad:
Hensley (Smethurst’s good friend)
Squadron Leader Lotus
Miss Pyrce (Netta’s aunt)
Flight Lieutenant Williamson
9. The House at Shiraz
The client: Lady Ester Carr
Herr Schlagal (the German pilot)
The English Consul in Shiraz
10. The Pearl of Price
The client: Carol Blundell (Caleb’s daughter)
Caleb P. Bundell (a rich American)
Dr. Carver (an archaeologist)
Sir Donald Marvel (Member of Parliament)
Colonel Dubosc (a career military officer on leave)
11. Death On The Nile
The client: Lady Ariadne Grayle
Basil West (Sir George’s secretary)
Miss Elsie McNaughton (Lady Grayle’s nurse)
Sir George Grayle (Lady Ariadne’s husband)
Pamela Grayle (Lady Grayle’s niece)
The client: Mrs. Peters (the Junior’s mother)
Mr. Thompson (the hotel manager at Delphi)
Willard Peters Junior (Mrs. Willard’s son)
Parker Pyne to Reginald Wade: (The Case of Discontented Husband)
‘You do not understand human nature, Mr. Wade. Still less do you understand feminine human nature. At the present moment you are, from the feminine point of view, merely a waste product. Nobody wants you. What use has a woman for something that no one wants? None whatever. But take another angle. Suppose your wife discovers that you are looking forward to regaining your freedom as much as she is?’
Parker Pyne to Mr. Roberts: (The of City Clerk)
‘You are carrying a cryptogram which reveals the secret hiding place of the crown jewels of Russia. You can understand, naturally, that Bolshevist agents will be alert to intercept you. If it is necessary of you to talk about yourself, I should recommended that you say you have come into money and are enjoying a little holiday abroad.’
Parker Pyne to the murderer: (The House of Shiraz)
‘Your ridiculous statement that Smethurst had been killed by bumping his head. O’Rourke put that idea into your head when we were standing talking in Damascus yesterday. You thought – how simple! You were the only doctor with us – whatever you said would be accepted. You’d got Loftus’s kit. You’d got his instruments. It was easy to select a neat little tool for your purpose. You lean over to speak to him and as you are speaking drive the little weapon home. You talk a minute or two. It is dark in the car. Who will suspect?’
The confession of the perpetrator (The Pearl of Price):
‘It was really sheer accident to start with. I was behind you [Mr. Parker] all morning and I came across it a moment before. She hadn’t noticed it. Nobody had. I picked it up and put it into my pocket, meaning to return it to her as soon as I caught her up. But I forgot.
And then, half-way up that climb I began to think. The jewel meant nothing to that fool of girl; her father would buy her another without noticing the cost. And it would mean a lot to me. The sale of that pearl would equip an expedition…’