Mr Parker Pyne, self-proclaimed "heart specialist", advertises his services for resolving unhappiness in the personal column of The Times. Many ignore the advert, some may laugh at it and move on, but those in need make their way to a modest office on Richmond Street and meet a most baffling and unique detective.
I am, if you like to put it that way, a heart specialist.
About Parker Pyne
Quite simply not a detective
Parker Pyne made his debut in 1934 in the short story collection, Parker Pyne Investigates. A large, balding man, thought to be in his sixties, he always insists that he is quite simply not a detective. Retired from being a civil servant, he decided to embark on a new career: curing unhappiness. And what better way to advertise than through the personal column of The Times:
“Are you happy? If not consult Mr Parker Pyne, 17 Richmond Street.”
His methods are unorthodox, and he often constructs elaborate charades to fool those he's helping and successfully resolve their unhappiness. Chiefly, he assists the discontented and the guilt-ridden, often taking a constructive back seat to the drama. Many of his cases are resolved without the participants even realising it was he who helped them. He works with a close-knit team, particularly adept at disguise, the “lounge lizard” Claude Luttrell, and the seductress Madeline de Sara. Also making the odd appearance in his work are Ariadne Oliver, crime novelist, and the ever-precise secretary Miss Lemon, both of whom would later work with Poirot.
He works on a theory that there are five main types of unhappiness and all can be logically resolved. It is traits like this which have led to the assumption that he was heavily influenced by Conan Doyle’s creation, Mycroft Holmes. Agatha Christie was a known fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and Mycroft (Sherlock’s elder brother), like Parker Pyne, was a former government employee, involved in gathering statistics. There is a suggestion that both had the skills to be traditional detectives (like Poirot and Sherlock) but instead chose to indulge in their own methods.
Pyne and Poirot
There is only one exclusive collection of Parker Pyne works, although they do appear in various compilations alongside both Poirot and Marple stories. In fact Poirot and Parker Pyne share many things, not least the title Death on the Nile (a short story for Pyne and a novel for Poirot). Poirot was also replaced by Parker Pyne in the short story The Regatta Mystery when it was published in a US collection in 1939. Perhaps Agatha Christie felt it was time for a new and different style of detection.
The majority of Parker Pyne’s cases are set in London, although even when holidaying on the Orient Express and through the Middle East, his reputation precedes him and he acts as an unwilling advisor from Baghdad to Shiraz, Petra, Delphi and even on a Nile cruise (in Christie's other Death on the Nile).
There has only been one on-screen version of Parker Pyne, in 1982 as part of the series The Agatha Christie Hour. He was played by Maurice Denham and appeared in two episodes, The Case of the Discontented Soldier and The Case of the Middle-aged Wife.