The Pearl of Price is a Parker Pyne short story written by Agatha Christie which was first published in the U.K in Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in June 1933. It was later gathered and included as the tenth 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.
While on a visit to Petra, Parker Pyne helps to solve the mystery of a girl whose pearl earring has gone missing.
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Parker Pyne is with a party of people who have travelled through Jordan from Amman to Petra. His companions are Caleb Blundell, an American millionaire, his daughter Carol and secretary, Jim Hurst, Sir Donald Marvel, a British MP, Doctor Carver, an archaeologist and Colonel Dubosc, a Frenchman. Camping in the night, Doctor Carver tells the others of the Nabataeans, the traders who built the city and who were no more than professional racketeers who controlled the trade routes of the area. This talk prompts a discussion on the nature of honesty, the suggestiveness of people and the riches accumulated by Mr. Blundell, demonstrated in part by the expensive pearl earrings worn by his daughter and which keep coming loose. Pyne detects an undercurrent of embarrassment within the discussion.
The next day the party makes its way to the top of a plateau to marvel at the view. When they reach their destination Carver points out to Carol that she has lost one of her earrings. She is certain she had it when she reached the plateau as Carver had seen it was loose again and had screwed it in for her. They search the ground around them but the object isn't there and the suspicion grows that it has been stolen. Colonel Dubosc demands to be searched to prove his innocence and the others agree, especially Mr. Blundell who states he has his own reasons for doing so, "though I don't want to state them". The pearl is not found.
Just after lunch, Carol appears in Pyne's tent and employs him to find the pearl. She especially wants to prove the innocence of Jim Hurst who is a reformed thief. He was stealing from her father's house when she met him and she saw how desperate he was and made her father employ him. He has proven his worth and she is in love with him, although Mr. Blundell wants her to marry Sir Donald. Pyne asks why her father wanted to be searched. Carol thinks he wanted to be searched because she could think it was him who stole the pearl in order to blame Hurst and not let him marry her.
Pyne agrees to help and after a small amount of thought confronts Doctor Carver. The archaeologist admits that he took the pearl, wrapping it in a small piece of plasticine that he carries to take imprints from carvings. The comments made about the suggestiveness of people prompted him tell Carol that the jewel was loose and fix it back into place when, in fact, he was taking it from her. He was planning to use the enormous price the earring would fetch to finance an archaeological expedition but Pyne tells him his plan wouldn't have worked — the pearl is worthless as Blundell's boasting of his riches the previous night was bluff. His fortune has been badly affected in the slump.
- Mr Parker Pyne
- Caleb Blundell
- Carol Blundell
- Jim Hurst
- Sir Donald Marvel
- Doctor Carver
- Colonel Dubosc
- Plasticine as a plot device also occurs in The Regatta Mystery.
Film, TV, or theatrical versions
- 1933 Nash's Pall Mall Magazine, issue 482, July 1933 with two other Parker Pyne stories under a sub-heading of "More Arabian Nights of Parker Pyne". Under the title "The Pearl".
- 1934, Parker Pyne Investigates, William Collins & Sons (London), November 1934
- 1934, Mr Parker Pyne, Detective, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1934