A house all tiled in blue and rose and yellow, set in a green garden with water and orange trees and roses. It was, he felt, the house of a dream. [The consul tells him:] “An Englishwoman’s got it now. You must have heard of her. Lady Esther Carr. Mad as a hatter. Gone completely native. Won’t have anything to do with anything or anyone British.”
[But she agrees to see Parker Pyne]
He was taken through the dark garden and up an outside staircase that led round to the back of the house. From there a door was opened and he passed through into the central court or balcony, which was open to the night. A big divan was placed against the wall and on it reclined a striking figure.
Lady Esther was attired in Eastern robes, and it might have been suspected that one reason for her preference lay in the fact that they suited her rich, Oriental style of beauty. Imperious, the consul had called her, and indeed imperious she looked. Her chin was held high and her brows were arrogant.
In an earlier entry on this collection of short stories, I said that in general I preferred the ones where Mr PP sits in his office in London and solves people’s problems. That is true, but still, this is my favourite of all the stories. He is travelling in Iran (called Persia then), comes to the city of Shiraz, hears about Lady Esther Carr and takes a hand. There are familiar Christie themes here – the eyes, ladies, foreigners, madness – but still it’s a touching and unusual story, sentimental but in a good way. Mr PP talks of London at length to Lady Esther, and the conclusion he draws from her responses is the key to the story, even if we don’t exactly have an equal opportunity to guess the truth.
Christie herself travelled extensively in the Middle East and what was then known as the Near East with her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan: she used the exotic locations for many of her stories and her books.
Another PP story is here, other Agatha Christie all over the blog: click on the label below.
Another lady being consciously eccentric in Oriental clothes in this book, with this picture: