The Case of the Middle-aged Wife is a Parker Pyne short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.K. in Woman's Pictorial in October 1932. It was later gathered and included 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.
In Parker Pyne Investigates, this story is followed by The Case of the Discontented Soldier.
A middle-aged wife turns to Parker Pyne for help. She is deeply unhappy because her husband beginning to take an interest in the young typist in his office.
(may contain spoilers - click on expand to read)
The marriage of George and Maria Packington is in difficulties. Mr. Packington has started to see a young typist named Nancy. When his wife protests, he states that he is merely trying to bring some happiness into the girl's life and that there is nothing in their relationship. At the end of her tether, Maria sees Parker Pyne’s advertisement in the personal column of the paper which reads: "Are you happy? If not, consult Mr. Parker Pyne."
Maria goes to the address given and Parker Pyne instantly guesses the cause of her unhappiness from his knowledge of life and his previous occupation in statistics. He tells Maria that his fee is two hundred guineas, the sum to be paid up front. At first reluctant, Maria returns to the office with the money, as Pyne predicted. He has already lined up one of his associates, a good-looking young man called Claude Luttrell, and he tells her that she will receive instructions tomorrow.
That night George Packington is surprised at his wife’s non-combative attitude towards him. The next day, Maria is sent for a beauty treatment and a dress-fitting followed by lunch at the Ritz Hotel with Pyne where she is introduced to Claude. Something of a whirlwind romance of ten days follows which culminates in a dance one night when Maria and Claude cross paths with George and his girl at a dance. George is jealous and shocked at his wife’s behaviour and a couple of days later the two are reconciled. At the same time, Maria has grown closer to Claude who breaks off his relationship with her and confesses the shame of his past to her as a gigolo who uses women. He promises to reform and keep Maria updated with his progress with an annual advert in the personal column. It turns out that this confession was also planned and the advert arranged by Pyne in order to give a lasting romance to Maria. Pyne is satisfied that he has successfully saved a marriage (at a profit to himself).
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
The story was adapted by Thames Television in 1982 as the first episode of their ten-part programme The Agatha Christie Hour. Maurice Denham played Parker Pyne and Angela Easterling played Miss Lemon.
- 1932 Woman's Pictorial, issue 613, 8 October 1932 as "The Woman Concerned".
- 1934, Parker Pyne Investigates, William Collins & Sons (London), November 1934
- 1934, Mr Parker Pyne, Detective, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1934
- So states the William Morrow 2010 edition of the anthology (and no other edition). This is also repeated by various internet resources. However, Nigel Cawthorne in his A Brief Guide to Agatha Christie, (London: Constable and Robinson, 2014) states that the 1934 anthology was the first publication of the story and AgathaChristie.com, the official website, also states that the first publication of the story was 1934.