The Mysterious Mr.Quin is a collection of short stories by Agatha Christie featuring the ever elusive Mr. Harley Quin. It was first published in the UK by William Collins & Sons in 1930 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later that same year.
Mr. Satterthwaite, an elderly urbane gentleman, has always been a mere spectator in the drama of life. But one fateful night his role as a simple observer is challenged as an enigmatic man enters his life. That man is Mr. Quin, a friend of lovers, an otherworldly presence. From that night on Mr. Satterthwaite, with overt and covert inspiration from his mysterious friend, wanders the twisted labyrinths of the human heart.
In her autobiography, Agatha Christie mentioned that Mr.Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite were her favourite creations. Surprisingly, there are only 14 short stories that feature Mr. Quin. 12 were published in the present volume and 2 other stories (The Love Detectives and The Harlequin Tea Set) were included in Problem at Pollensa Bay. One would think that a favourite character would re-appear more often than that. Mr. Satterthwaite was luckier. He appears in a full length novel, Three Act Tragedy (1935), which is a Poirot mystery. Although in Three Act Tragedy Mr. Satterthwaite seemed somewhat listless without his shadowy companion.
The book contains 12 intriguing short stories.
They 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 and Harlequin’s Lane.
Among these stories my favourites are The Coming of Mr. Quin, At the ‘Bells and Motley’, The Man from the Sea and The Dead Harlequin.
The association between Mr. Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite is a unique one. Mr. Quin helps Mr. Satterthwaite see things in a different light. He often shows things that cannot be seen with the naked eye, revealing and solving mysteries in the process. He is a friend of lovers and the problems are often not problems at all but subtle difficulties that may lead to great misfortune. Mr. Satterthwaite on the other hand, has an expert eye for seeing these subtle problems and delving in to his past experiences to solve them. But Mr. Satterthwaite is almost nothing without Mr. Quin. Mr. Quin gives him that gentle nudge he needs to go in the right direction.
Mr Harley Quin is almost definitely a supernatural being. He comes and leaves without any explanation. He may appear at the edge of a cliff or in an empty train compartment. It is interesting to note that in the first story The Coming of Mr. Quin he is somewhat enigmatic but not obviously magical. But as the book progresses there is a definite trend of him growing more and more mystical. By the final story, Harlequin’s Lane, he becomes a near shadowy presence, an almost terrifying phenomenon.
The book moves amazingly swiftly. Even though I tried my best to linger on, I finished it within a very short time.
The stories themselves are nothing exceptional. Frankly, the earlier stories are better than the latter ones. I was quite unhappy after reading the last story, Harlequin’s Lane. There is something disturbing about it.
The plots of the stories maybe quite nondescript but the presence of Mr. Quin makes reading The Mysterious Mr.Quin worth while. An exceptional creation by Christie. Definitely recommended.
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