The Mysterious Mr. Quin: “It was New Year’s Eve.”
Detective: Mr. Satterthwaite (aided by Mr. Quin)
Published: 1930 (Christie’s 13th published book)
Length: 288 pages
Setting: various: London, Monte Carlo, Corsica, etc.
Oh, what an odd little Christie novel. Yet I suppose I shouldn’t call it a novel. The Mysterious Mr. Quin is a compilation of a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie, published in various magazines over the course of approximately 5 years. One expects customary mysteries from Christie, complete with complex plots but this book is definitely different. There are murders to solve but there are also problems of human choices and consequences. Christie once again attempts something unique.
Who is Mr. Harley Quinn? No one really knows. In the first story, he shows up at a New Year’s Eve country house party claiming to need shelter while his chauffeur repairs his broken down car. Among the guests, Mr. Satterthwaite is an well-respected older socialite with a philosophic approach to life yet razor-sharp observations. He has already noted some peculiar behaviour exhibited by some of the guests and with the appearance of Mr. Quin, he has the uncanny impression that a mystery might be solved. And what a mystery! Ten years ago, the previous owner of Royston, the country house, committed suicide and to this day no one has discovered the motive. But with Mr. Quin’s appearance, one knows the mystery will not remain one for long.
Thus follows the rest of the stories, all involving Mr. Satterthwaite and the mostly mysterious appearances at opportune (and inopportune) times of Mr. Quin. While the title of the book leads the reader to expect that Mr. Quin is the main character, the stories all revolve around Mr. Satterthwaite with Quin acting as a shadowy catalyst to aid Mr. Satterthwaite in solving the main dilemma.
The stories in The Mysterious Mr. Quin are:
- The Coming of Mr. Quin
- The Shadow on the Glass
- At the “Bells and Motley”
- The Sign in the Sky
- The Soul of the Croupier
- The Man from the Sea
- The Voice in the Dark
- The Face of Helen
- The Dead Harlequin
- The Bird With The Broken Wing
- The World’s End
- Harlequin’s Lane
The name Harley Quin, appears to be linked to the Harlequin, originally the comedic servant characters that populated the 16th century Italian Commedia dell’arte, a comedic early form of professional theatre. However, the resemblance of this Quin is more to the British Harliquinade in which Harlequin has mysterious, enchanted powers and brings about an alteration in scenery with a touch of his comedy. As a Christie character, his persona is indeed mystical, inexplicable and his appearances can be almost supernatural.
While I thoroughly enjoyed The Mysterious Mr. Quin and the deviation that Christie made in her style, the stories were still only average reads for me, my favourite being The Man From the Sea. However Christie claimed that Satterthwaite and Quin were two of her favourite characters and they make reappearances in stories yet to come.
The next book in my Christie chronological read is a book written under her pseudonym, Mary Westmacott, called Giant’s Bread. I’ve never read a Westmacott novel and I’m curious as to what I’ll find.
⇐ Partners in Crime Giant’s Bread ⇒