The House at Shiraz is a Parker Pyne short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.S. in Cosmopolitan in April 1933. In the U.K. it was first published in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in June 1933. It was later gathered and included as the ninth 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.
Parker Pyne is at Shiraz on his tour of the Middle East. He learns that there is an English woman there who lived as a total recluse and who claims she is Persian. Everyone seemed to regard her as insane. Parker Pyne is intrigued and offers her his services.
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Parker Pyne is still in the Orient on his way to Teheran, then Shiraz. He is taking the route by a monoplane flown on the first leg on the journey by a young German pilot called Herr Schlagal.
Disappointed with the modernity of Teheran, Pyne invites Schlagal to dine with him and they talk of his job flying across the Middle East. The pilot tells of his first two passengers, a young titled lady called Esther Carr and her beautiful companion who Schlagal fell in love with. Soon after, the second young woman was dead and Schlagal suspects Lady Esther of the murder, seeing insanity in her eyes and in her manner. Pyne knows of Lady Esther's parents and of her family where insanity has been a curse through some of the generations down the years.
Arriving in Shiraz on the second day of the Nowruz festival, Pyne makes the acquaintance of the English consul and dines with him. He enquires after a striking house that he saw just outside the town on a visit to the tomb of Hafez, the poet. The consul tells him that this is none other than the home of Lady Esther who now lives as a recluse, refusing to see anyone from her old country. The consul took over his post the very day after the death of the companion who fell from a balcony in the courtyard while carrying a breakfast tray. The consul also mirrors some of the comments of the German pilot about the strangeness of Lady Esther and speaks of her "dark, flashing eyes".
The next day, Pyne writes to Lady Esther from his hotel room and encloses a cutting of his "personal" advert from The Times. He duly receives a request to visit the woman and goes to her house. There they talk of England and Pyne talks at length of people, places and social events as frequented by all classes of people.
Lady Esther is obviously pining for home but states that she can never return and Pyne tells her that he knows the reason why. He takes her through the story of the German pilot and asks if she would receive him. Lady Esther refuses and he accuses her of play-acting – but not to cover up a murder. He knows that she is the companion – Muriel King – and that it was Lady Esther who died, not the other girl. Muriel tells of the real sequence of events. Lady Esther was jealous of Herr Schlagal's infatuation with Muriel and turned on her in her madness. She fell by accident and, terrified of being accused of her murder, Muriel put the breakfast tray down by the body and adopted her identity, refusing to see anyone in case they spotted the substitution.
The new consul was one of the people who had never met the real Lady Esther and therefore wasn't suspicious. Pyne knew something was wrong when he heard of Lady Esther's "dark, flashing eyes" knowing that her parents were both blue-eyed. His talk of England confirmed his suspicions – the supposed titled lady in front of him didn't react to stories of high society events but her face showed how much she missed the everyday life of ordinary people. He promises to help her convince people of her innocence and affect a reunion with Herr Shlagal.
- Parker Pyne mentions Lady Hester Stanhope as a parallel example of what was happening at Shiraz.
- Parker Pyne's answers to Persian immigration authorities provide some hints as to his family background. See the article Parker Pyne for details.
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
- 1933: Cosmopolitan, issue 562, April 1933 with four other Parker Pyne stories under a banner "Have You Got Everything You Want? If Not Consult Mr. Parker Pyne". Illustrated by Marshall Frantz.
- 1933: Nash's Pall Mall Magazine, issue 481, June 1933 with two other Parker Pyne stories under a sub-heading of "The Arabian Nights of Parker Pyne". Under the title "At the House in Shiraz". Marshall Frantz's illustrations from Cosmopolitan were re-used.
- 1934: Parker Pyne Investigates, William Collins & Sons (London), November 1934
- 1934: Mr Parker Pyne, Detective, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1934
- 1936: The Grand Magazine, vol. 69 no. 377, Jul 1936.
- 1966: Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, vol. 48 no. 3, whole no. 274, Sep 1966, as "The Dream House of Shiraz".
- Nigel Cawthorne, A Brief Guide to Agatha Christie, (London: Constable and Robinson, 2014), 121, ebook edition.
- See this listing at Galactic Central