Parker Pyne Investigates is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by William Collins and Sons in November 1934. Along with The Listerdale Mystery, this collection did not appear under the usual imprint of the Collins Crime Club but instead appeared as part of the Collins Mystery series. It appeared in the US later in the same year published by Dodd, Mead and Company under the title Mr Parker Pyne, Detective. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00.
The collection comprises twelve of her fourteen stories featuring detective James Parker Pyne; the two remaining stories, Problem at Pollensa Bay and The Regatta Mystery were later collected in The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories in 1939 in the US and in Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories in the UK in 1991 although these were originally stories featuring Hercule Poirot when they were first published in the Strand Magazine in 1935 and 1936 respectively.
James Parker Pyne is a retired government employee who considers himself to be a "detective of the heart". Advertising his services in the "Personal" column of The Times, he works alongside his secretary Miss Lemon, novelist Ariadne Oliver , handsome "lounge lizard" Claude Luttrell and disguise artist Madeleine de Sara.
The first six stories deal with Pyne solving cases in England, while the second six stories detail Pyne's vacation, where he hopes not to have to do detective work only to end up helping others anyway.
- The Case of the Middle-aged Wife
- The Case of the Discontented Soldier
- The Case of the Distressed Lady
- The Case of the Discontented Husband
- The Case of the City Clerk
- The Case of the Rich Woman
- Have You Got Everything You Want?
- The Gate of Baghdad
- The House at Shiraz
- The Pearl of Price
- Death on the Nile
- The Oracle at Delphi
Literary significance and reception
No review of the book appeared in the Times Literary Supplement.
The unnamed reviewer in The New York Times Book Review of January 1, 1935 said, "The stories are sufficiently varied, both as to scene and as to plot, to afford this new detective the widest possible scope for his alibities. Parker Pyne can never supplant Hercule Poirot in the hearts of Agatha Christie's admirers, but he is a welcome addition to her gallery of characters."
In The Observer's issue of November 18, 1934, "Torquemada" (Edward Powys Mathers) stated that Christie was, "the only consistently inspired practitioner of an art where ingenuity and industry have so often to substitute for genius." On the subject of this collection, Mr. Mathers said that the book, "has a certain appeal to all Agatha Christie fans, and to ourselves and to all lovers of the well-made magazine story."
Robert Barnard: "A mediocre collection. Parker Pyne begins as a consultant Miss Lonelyhearts, ends up as a conventional detective."
References to other works
The Gate of Baghdad twice quotes the poem Gates of Damascus by James Elroy Flecker. As Pyne stands in Damascus he likens the Baghdad Gate that they will go through as the "Gate of Death" however whereas Flecker's poem talks of four gates in the city, in reality there are eight in the ancient walls and none of them is called the Baghdad gate. Christie also referenced the poem in naming her final written work, Postern of Fate (1973).
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Two of the stories in the collection were adapted by Thames Television in 1982 as part of their ten-part programme The Agatha Christie Hour, a series of one-off plays from short stories by the writer. The Case of the Middle-aged Wife was episode 1 and The Case of the Discontented Soldier was episode 5 in the 10 episode series. Maurice Denham played Parker Pyne and Angela Easterling played Miss Lemon.
- 1934, William Collins & Sons (London), November 1934, Hardcover, 256 pp
- 1934, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1934, Hardcover, 244 pp
- 1951, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, (Dell number 550 mapback), 224 pp
- 1953, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 932), 190 pp
- 1962, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 158 pp
- 1978, Ulverscroft Large-print Edition, Hardcover, 299 pp, ISBN 0-7089-0141-7
First publication of stories
Nine of the stories in Parker Pyne Investigates had their true first publication in the US as follows:
- The Case of the Discontented Soldier, The Case of the Distressed Lady, The Case of the City Clerk, The Case of the Discontented Husband and The Case of the Rich Woman all appeared in the August 1932 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (issue number 554) under the sub-heading of Are You Happy? If Not Consult Mr. Parker Pyne with illustrations by Marshall Frantz.
- Have You Got Everything You Want?, The House at Shiraz, Death on the Nile and The Oracle at Delphi all appeared in the April 1933 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (issue number 562) under the sub-heading of Have You Got Everything You Want? If Not, Consult Mr. Parker Pyne again with illustrations by Marshall Frantz. The first story was not individually named.
Known publication of the stories in the UK are as follows:
- The Case of the Middle-aged Wife: First published in issue 613 of Woman's Pictorial of 8 October 1932 as The Woman Concerned.
- The Case of the Discontented Soldier: First published in issue 614 of Woman's Pictorial of October 15, 1932 (illustrated by J.A. May and with an additional title of Adventure - By Request)
- The Case of the Distressed Lady: First published in issue 615 of Woman's Pictorial of October 22, 1932 (illustrated by J.A. May and with an additional title of Faked!)
- The Case of the Discontented Husband: First published in issue 616 of Woman's Pictorial of October 29, 1932 (illustrated by J.A. May and with an additional title of His Lady's Affair)
- The Case of the City Clerk: First published in issue 503 of the Strand Magazine in November 1932 under the title of The £10 Adventure.
- Have You Got Everything You Want?, The Gate of Bagdad and The House at Shiraz were all first published in issue 481 of Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in June 1933 under the sub-heading of The Arabian Nights of Parker Pyne. The individual story titles as they appeared in the magazine were On the Orient Express, At the Gate of Baghdad and In the House at Shiraz respectively. Marshall Frantz's illustrations from Cosmopolitan were re-used.
- The Pearl of Price, Death on the Nile and The Oracle at Delphi were all first published in issue 482 of Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in July 1933 under the sub-heading of More Arabian Nights of Parker Pyne. The Pearl of Price appeared under the slightly abridged title of The Pearl. Again, Marshall Frantz's illustrations from Cosmopolitan were re-used.
- German: Parker Pyne ermittelt (Parker Pyne Investigages)
Der Fall der enttäuschten Hausfrau (The Case of the Disappointed House Wife)
Der Fall des unbefriedigten Soldaten (The Case of the Discontented Soldier)
Der Fall der verzweifelten Frau (The Case of the Distressed Woman)
Der Fall des unzufriedenen Ehemanns (The Case of the Discontented Husband)
Der Fall des Büroangestellten (The Case of the Office Clerk)
Der Fall der reichen Frau (The Case of the Rich Woman)
Haben Sie alles, was Sie brauchen?‘‘ (Have You Everything What You Want?)
Das Tor nach Bagdad (The Gate of Baghdad)
Das Haus in Shiraz (The House at Shiraz)
Eine Perle von Wert (A Pearl Of Price)
Tod auf dem Nil (Death on the Nile)
Das Orakel von Delphi (The Oracle at Delphi)
- Russian: Мистер Паркер Пайн - мастер счастья (=Mister Parker Payn - master schast'ya, Mr. Parker Pyne - happiness master)