15 June 2009

Review: THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN, Agatha Christie

THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by William Collins & Sons 1930 and in the US later in the same year.
The version I read was published by Harper Collins Publishers in paperback in 1993. 250 pages. ISBN 0-00-616651-2

It contains 12 short stories and introduces Mr Satterthwaite and the rather shadowy presence of Mr Harley Quin.

The titles 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
Mr Quin first appears in the first story at a New Year's Eve party being attended by Mr Satterthwaite. He is described as "a little bent, dried-up man, with a peering face oddly elflike, and an intense and inordinate interest in other people's lives." It is after midnight and the conversation swings around to the former owner of the house who shot himself. There are three loud knocks on the front door and the door is opened to reveal a tall thin dark man dressed in motoring clothes. At first, to Mr Satterthwaite he momentairly appears to be dressed in every colour of the rainbow. The stranger's car has broken down and he introduces himself as Harley Quin. He says that he knew the former owner of the house, and joins in the conversation, assisting Mr Satterthwaite and the others in understanding his death.

These 12 stories are lovely vignettes, deceptively short, the sort that make you read elements of them a second or a third time. Mr Quin makes an appearance in each one, at first to Mr Satterthwaite's surprise, and then he begins to look for him.

Mr Quin often helps the observant Mr Satterthwaite see things in a totally different light. There is an element of the paranormal in the stories, and often a little romance, and yet at the same time they are believable, carefully crafted tales.

The stories are generally set in the mid 1920s.

I really enjoyed them. My rating 4.4

Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin also appear in two stories in the collection PROBLEM AT POLLENSA BAY published in 1991. One apparently was written even before THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN was published, but the other not until 1991.

Read the first 6 pages of The Coming of Mr Quin online at Amazon.
Read synopses of each of the short stories in the collection on Wikipedia.

I've read THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. It was Agatha Christie's 4th published collection of short stories, coming in between novels #10 and #11.


Brian Kavanagh said...

I read the Mr Quinn stories many years ago. They fascinated me because they were really very much different to the usual AC. I must seek them out and revisit.

Maxine Clarke said...

I dimly remember reading these, but nothing about them, I'm afraid. I haven't read short stories for ages but I bought a copy of the Creme de la Crime anthology at CrimeFest (sold to support cancer research) and also bought the collection containing Martin Edwards's award-winning story from last year, so I have some catching-up planned. Maybe will take them on holiday as the format suits holidays quite well.

Kerrie said...

Just the thing for quick reads!

Elizabeth Frengel said...

Ah, the mysterious Mr. Harley Quin... He comes. And he goes. There's simply no better way to say it.

Miss Lemon confesses that he is one of her favourites.


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