Dodd, Mead and Company, 1930
My Rating: B+
Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Quin are two men featured in the twelve stories compiled into The Mysterious Mr. Quin. The stories were originally published in magazines in England the 1920’s.
Each one of the stories is subtle detective work for Mr. Satterthwaite. Not a lot of sleuthing. It’s more mental detective work and lots of observation. Mr. Quin’s role is more complex. Here is a clue, as noted by Mr. Satterthwaite, to his role in the first story, The Coming of Mr. Quin.
And, again suddenly, a new illumination came to [Mr. Satterthwaite]. This was Mr. Quin’s doing. It was he who was staging the play — was giving the actors their cues. He was at the heart of the mystery pulling the strings, making the puppets work. He knew everything, even to the presence of the woman crouched against the woodwork upstairs. Yes, he knew.
Mr. Quin seems to appear at just the right time in just the right place. He doesn’t say much; primarily he asks questions. It’s Mr. Satterthwaite who does all the work. He is a seasoned observer of human nature – a champion people-watcher. His senses have been fine-tuned to the drama of human interaction.
Mr. Quin’s role is to show up at the oddest places, knowing that Mr. Satterthwaite will be there and knowing that somewhere within Mr. Satterthwaite will be the solution to the mystery, even though Mr. Satterthwaite doesn’t know he has the solution.
I won’t tell you about all twelve stories but let me share the basic set up for a couple of the stories so you’ll get the flavor of them.
- The Coming of Mr. Quin: Friends, including Mr. Satterthwaite, are gathered at an old countryhome on New Year’s Eve. Ten years earlier the owner of the home had mysteriously committed suicide. Most of the guests had been there that night but no one could understand the reason for the suicide. Mr. Quin’s car breaks down on the road outside this countryhome and he quietly visits while his car is repaired. He orchestrates an informal inquest of the facts that helps Mr. Satterthwaite deduce the mystery.
- The Voice In the Dark involves a drawn out story of a mother-daughter and a deceased aunt and voices in the night, even a seance. The interesting aspect of this tale is that Mr. Quin knows ahead of time that there will be a mysterious death. He waits at a nearby inn, ready for Mr. Satterthwaite to visit.
- The Dead Harlequin is the name of the story and also the name of a picture by an up and coming artist. Mr. Satterthwaite discovered the painting in the gallery but it made him gasp when he saw it. The painting depicts a dead man on the floor and the same man looking in at the window. The man in the picture looks just like his friend Mr. Quin. Mr. Satterthwaite knew that “every appearance of Mr. Quin had some distinct significance attaching to it.” Mr. Satterthwaite also recognizes the room in the picture. Intrigued, he buys the picture and sets about solving an even bigger mystery than the painting. Of course, Mr. Quin is involved.
This was a fun experience for me. I could see these stories set in the 1920’s. They were fun and felt more like a detective game. All the clues were there for the reader to figure out. Most of them were rather easy. I did find myself becoming cynical about the contrived appearance of Mr. Quin but not enough to spoil it for me.
I especially loved the character of Mr. Satterthwaite. (I also love saying his name.) In her autobiography Agatha Christie revealed that these two characters were two of her favorites. I wished she had featured them more often.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been forcing myself to read the stories one at a time and waiting at least a day or two before reading the next one. That way the anticipation could build the way it did waiting for the magazine to publish the next story. I recommend doing the same.
I’m reading all of Agatha Christie’s books as part of Kerry’s Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
18 Down / 69 To Go
I enjoyed this book via the Sonoma Public Library but it is available on Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)