The Case of the Discontented Husband is a Parker Pyne short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.S. in Cosmopolitan in August 1932. In the U.K. it was first published in Woman's Pictorial in October 1932. It was later gathered and included as the fourth story in the collection Parker Pyne Investigates, published in 1934 in the U.K. In the U.S., the collection also came out in 1934 under the title Mr Parker Pyne, Detective.
A young man calls on Parker Pyne for help. His wife is getting bored with him and wants a divorce to marry a more interesting man.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
Parker Pyne receives a new client. Reginald Wade is a slightly inarticulate young man whose marriage is in a mess. His wife of nine years has given him six month’s notice that unless he changes his ways she wants a divorce. He leads a blameless life, playing golf and tennis whereas Mrs Wade likes the arts – galleries, operas and concerts. She is bored with her husband and she has become friends with a long-haired art lover called Sinclair Jordan. Pyne’s solution to the problem is for Reggie to have a mild flirtation with a beautiful woman. This will make Iris Wade jealous and also make her think twice about Reggie’s attractiveness to women. Although he admits that there is a possibility that Iris is so completely in love with Jordan that the plan will fail, Pyne thinks the scheme has a ninety-seven percent chance of success and he charges Wade two hundred guineas, payable in advance.
Reggie subsequently "invites" Madeleine de Sara down to his house for the weekend, with his wife’s agreement and to her amusement. She is pleased that her divorce will be simpler in that Reggie will not be so upset, but she is less pleased to see the attraction between the pair and the compliments that Miss de Sara bestows upon Reggie. Madeleine makes small comments about his ability as a golf teacher and how not playing a sport makes one feel left out. She also compliments Iris on letting Reggie have such friendships when other jealous women wouldn’t. Little by little, Iris’ veneer of acceptance starts to slip away.
Later that day Reggie and Madeleine take a walk in the rose garden and, seeing that Iris is watching them from the terrace, Madeleine makes Reggie kiss her. Iris is livid and in a private row with Reggie threatens a separation. Madeleine tells him to suggest that he leaves as she won’t like the idea of him being alone in London, "amusing" himself. A war of nerves breaks out between the couple, but Madeleine tells him to keep calm – at this rate, all with be well in less than a fortnight...
A week later, Madeleine returns to Pyne’s office and reports on the case. Matters reached a head when Sinclair Jordan joined the house party. He fell for Madeleine, but she made outrageous fun of him and his appearance. Iris demanded that Reggie throw her out, but he told his wife he wanted to marry Madeleine as per her instructions to him. Iris has staged a collapse, but Reggie has nevertheless gone to town and Madeleine is sure that Iris is following him to effect a reconciliation on his terms. Suddenly the office door bursts open and Reggie runs in, proclaiming his genuine love for Madeleine. Iris quickly follows and a scene ensues, ended by Madeleine when she screams hysterically for them to get out. They leave and Pyne accepts responsibility for this turn of events. He writes across the file that this case’s result was a "failure".
- Lorrimer Court - appears to be the residence of the Wades but its location is not stated.
- It appears that Parker Pyne charges his clients "what the market will bear". His fee for Reginald Wade is 200 guineas. For Maria Packington, in fairly similar circumstances, his fee was 1000 guineas.
- Parker Pyne offered Major Charles Wilbraham a fee of 50 pounds with a "no cure no pay refund". Parker Pyne considered the Reginald Wade case to be a failure but it is not stated if he gave a refund to him.
- In The Case of the Middle-aged Wife, Parker Pyne stated that cases of unhappiness came under five headings. Here he lists four:
- Women who are in trouble over their husbands
- Husbands who are in trouble over their wives
- 1932: Cosmopolitan, issue 554, August 1932 with a sub-heading "Are You Happy? If Not Consult Mr. Parker Pyne". Illustrated by Marshall Frantz.
- 1932: Woman's Pictorial, issue 616, 29 October 1932 with a subtitle "His Lady's Affair". Illustrated by J. A. May.
- 1934, Parker Pyne Investigates, William Collins & Sons (London), November 1934
- 1934, Mr Parker Pyne, Detective, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1934
- See this listing at Galactic Central
- Agatha Christie, Parker Pyne Investigates, (London: William Morrow, 2010). Unique to this edition, where the story was originally published in the UK is stated at the beginning of each story.
- Nigel Cawthorne, A Brief Guide to Agatha Christie, (London: Constable and Robinson, 2014), 123, ebook edition.