The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Mr. QuinThe 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.


Harlequin (1890) Paul Cezanne
~ source Wikiart

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 Road to Monte Carlo

The Road to Monte Carlo (1883) Claude Monet
~ source Wikiart

The stories in The Mysterious Mr. Quin are:

  1. The Coming of Mr. Quin
  2. The Shadow on the Glass
  3. At the “Bells and Motley”
  4. The Sign in the Sky
  5. The Soul of the Croupier
  6. The Man from the Sea
  7. The Voice in the Dark
  8. The Face of Helen
  9. The Dead Harlequin
  10. The Bird With The Broken Wing
  11. The World’s End
  12. 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.

Harlequin and Pierrot

Harlequin and Pierrot (1924) Andre Derain
~ source Wikiart

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

13 thoughts on “The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie

  1. I loved this series of short stories, but I think a lot of that was because I listened to it read by Hugh Fraser. I think I’d read one of the stories in another anthology and it didn’t strike me as that great or memorable at all. So I really think it must have been Mr. Fraser’s narration that clinched it for me. I also listened to the Parker Pyne short stories narrated by him and enjoyed it immensely!

    • While I enjoyed them this time, I suspect I might like them more on a second read. I’m so bad attention-wise with audiobooks but I should give it a try. I’m sure Hugh Fraser is amazing! Thanks for the tip and for visiting, Emily!

  2. i’m fairly sure i read these stories at some point; aging memory fails, tho… i have a couple of Westmacotts; maybe i’ll do a post on one. as always, your selection in illustrations is formidable: there’s something about great art like the ones you picked that is mesmerizing: they sort of draw one in to their reality…

    • I’d love to read a post on Westmacott! I’m so intrigued by “her” books because I expect the writing to be very different than Christie’s usual styles. Thanks for the compliment on the illustrations. It’s always nice to search for them and learn a little bit more about art as I go.

    • They’re light stories but very interesting. You always wonder when and how Mr. Quin will show up and who he really is. It would be a fun re-read.

  3. I read all of the Harley Quin (and all of Parker Pyne with a few Poriots and Miss Marples tossed in) stories last year in a bind up called “Master Pieces in Miniature: The Detectives”. They were fun but not particularly memorable to me. Definitely more along the lines of romantic suspense too…kind of a precursor to Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island.

    • Romantic suspense? Really! None of these reminded me of that genre however I’ll keep my eye out as I go along. And yes, I agree; not memorable but not terrible either. Just so-so. I’m looking forward to my first Miss Marple!

  4. Pingback: Giant's Bread by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie) - Classical CarouselClassical Carousel

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