The name of Mrs Abner Rymer was brought to Mr Parker Pyne. He knew the name and he raised his eyebrows.
Presently his client was shown into the room.
Mrs Rymer was a tall woman, big-boned. Her figure was ungainly and the velvet dress and the heavy coat she wore did not disguise the fact. The knuckles of her large hands were pronounced. Her face was big and broad and highly coloured. Her black hair was fashionably dressed, and there were many tips of curled ostrich in her hat.
She plumped herself down on a chair with a nod.
“Good morning,” she said. Her voice had a rough accent. “If you’re any good at all you’ll tell me how to spend my money!”
“Most original” murmured Mr Parker Pyne.
observations: The Parker Pyne stores are seen as a minor part of Christie’s work. She wrote a dozen or so, and only half of them were of the original setup, where a client comes to PP’s office and pays money to be made happy – in others he is on holiday and comes across situations where he lends a hand or solves a crime.
But to me they are a delight, wholly separate from the Poirots and the Marples, really enjoyable short stories – unrealistic but fun, and complete in themselves. They are silly, but strangely memorable, and occasionally affecting, and you wonder if PP or Christie might have been onto something. If she hadn’t had such a huge success with her other books, she might have carved out a little niche with these tales. And, PP isn’t half as annoying as Poirot.
The basic setup is: A client comes to the office, having seen the small ad (above) in the newspaper. They explain what’s wrong to the maestro, pay some money, then go away. Then something happens to them – very, very varied events, you would never in a million years guess what is going to happen to Mrs Rymer – and then later everyone decides if they are indeed happier or not. So simple, so perfect: I wish there were more of them. Love, money, boredom, discontent – Mr Parker Pyne has a handle on all the ills of modern life. Oddly enough, he employs Miss Lemon and Ariadne Oliver, both of them better known from the Poirot books. Also on his staff: a temptress, Madeleine de Sara, and a lounge lizard, Claude Luttrell (possibly the best name in all of Christie) - and if that doesn't make you want to read them, you're a lost cause.
Links on the blog: Agatha Christie all over the place, click on the label below.
The picture is from the Library of Congress.