Is Mr Quin Mysterious

Mr Quin is often said to be mysterious, the book title "The Mysterious Mr Quin" may be a reason why. But having read the brilliant short stories it occurred to me that he is not really mysterious. Allow me to explain:

The definition of "Mysterious" is this: "1.Beyond human power to explain or understand." So Mr Quin is mysterious because we do not know anything about him, his life, his job, if he is married etc. However the reason we do not know anything about him is because Mr Satterthwaite does not ask him any questions. It occurred to me throughout the 12 stories we never read Mr Satterthwaite ask Mr Quin any questions about his life at all. And as I said above the definition of mysterious is BEYOND human power to explain. So it is not the case here as Mr Satterthwaite DID have the power to ask Mr Quin questions about his life, but decided not to.

I enjoyed the stories very much, but is Mr Quin mysterious? Do you agree with me? Please tell me.  


  • The fact he vanishes into thin area is rather mysterious!  You can tell my my username, he enthralls me. I think that Christie was really inspire by writing about a an ordinary man Mr Satterthwaite who encounters a supernatural being who guides him solve cases.

    I read the stories from the very beginning. Mr Quin seems rather like an unusual man, but quite human. But at that time period, I think people I don't think that people would be so forthright as they are now. I think it would have taken longer to find out about a person. So rather than finding out who he is, there's more information in each story. You don't know if he's married, does he work, is he rich, is her eccentric, an actor? You are left wondering.  Why does he appear to Mr S? that's never fully explained. So I think mysterious is a good word. 

    As the stories continue, Mr Quin becomes some really out of the ordinary. One of my favourites is the Man from the Sea, where we do find out more about him.
  • youngmrquinyoungmrquin Buenos Aires, Argentina
    edited March 2014
    I'm sorry Nathan, maybe I'm wrong and we are again in translation territory.
    But I read the book in Spanish and Mr S. does ask him some questions. Not extremely personal, but related to his life. It's rather Quin who is evasive about answering him.

    Yes, @MissQuin, that story, The Man from the Sea is superb. I also enjoyed The Bird with the broken wing (more like mystery plotted), Harlequin's corpse (sorry, I ignore its name in English, it's the painting one), the story about the love triangle between the woman and the two men and the last one, Harlequin's lane. However, I would have enjoyed it more had it been less onirical and more concrete. While the dream-like quality is always welcomed, it was difficult to me to even build in my mind an image of what was going on.
  • I love all the Quin stories but The Dead Harlequin (with the painting) is very good, plus you learn a little about Mr S and his patience and love of Art.  The Bird With A Broken Wing is melancholy and beautiful, but the motive is never explained, which the gives the reader something to puzzle over.
     The Sign In The Sky which is about a murder trial, is an excellent story and more crime oritented and has clues. The Soul Of The Croupier conveys of atmosphere of glamour and greed. 

    The Words End is another favouite of mine, It's the first time anyone (the young artist) except Mr S has connected Mr Quin with Commedia De Arte. The Face Of Helen might be the love triangle? Although there's quite a few in Mr Quin stories. Probably because of the love triangle theme in the may versions of the story of Harlequin, Columbina and Pierrot.

    I love the fact there is that ethereal, dream like quality with the stories, because I can't think of many works of crime fiction that have it. But I appreciate it's harder for you @youngmrquin, as it's not in your own language.  Harlequin's Lane is the only story I think may have become a little too whimsical and left too much unanswered.  But it still has many good points and it's theme of dancers and tragedy reminds me of a film called The Red Shoes which was filmed later in the 40's and is a absolute classic. 

    I was a little miffed that the edition I bought of The mysterious Mr Quin didn't include all the stories. I had to buy the other copy so I could read The Love Detectives which think a very silly name even though it's a good story. Plus The Harlequin Tea Set which again is very fantastical but has good points. 

  • FrankFrank Queensland, Australia
    Mr Quin was described by AC in her Autobiography as "a figure who just entered into a story - a catalyst, no more - his mere presence affected human beings". I think Mr Quin could be said to be mysterious.
  • MastersMasters Lowlands
    edited November 2016

    This is an old posting many many years ago by some Francis A. Miniter, that I would like to share. It has been for a long time on the internet. But not available anymore. Here it is (again):

    I want to thank Howard for bringing to my attention in January Agatha Christie's character Mr. Harley Quin. Motivated by his post, I finally acquired a copy of *The Mysterious Mr. Quin* this weekend (alas, from yet another used bookstore that is going out of business) and finished it last night.

    This is the deepest, most powerful novel I have read by Christie.

    On the surface, it is a collection of twelve short stories. But, the stories are not just connected by the presence in each story of the protagonist(s) Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Quin and by an internal chronology. They exhibit a clear thematic development. At the start of the first story, we learn that Satterthwaite is about 62 years old and has spent his whole life in observation of people, but not in participation with them. So that, as in that story, he will be present at a conversation, but not contribute to it. An old suicide is discussed and declared a mystery, but just then a Mr. Quin appears at the door, asking for cover while his chauffeur repairs his car, and joins in the conversation. Quin subtly directs the participants into revealing all they know, indeed, sometimes more than they know they know. Then, with a well placed question to Satterthwaite who has been silently observing, he solves the mystery. Satterthwaite is enthused.

    In the second story, Quin again appears at a critical point, but this time he encourages Satterthwaite to take on he role that he, Quin, had played in the first story. Satterthwaite does and succeeds. He has moved from observer of affairs to commentator on them.

    As the stories progress from the third to the eleventh, Satterthwaite becomes more and more involved in situations signaled by the presence of Quin, and moves from commentator to actor to director to, in the 11th story, producer. For all of these stories have the character of plays, dramas.

    Meanwhile, as Satterthwaite gets more and more involved, Quin becomes less and less involved, until in the 11th story, he participates only by being present on a cliff where a man wishes to commit suicide. His mere presence discourages the man from acting at that time.

    But the 12th story reverses all that has gone before. Mr. Harley Quin is now Harlequin, both the Harlequin of a Harlequinade and Harlequin the Invisible, who acts as a spirit unseen by humans. Satterthwaite is reduced once again to the position of observer, but this time, he is not the knowing, enlightened observer, but a helpless observer of events he does not understand. Quin, by contrast, is a force of nature.

    What or who is Mr. Quin? Howard, in his mid-January post, refers to him as the alter ego of Mr. Satterthwaite. To some extent true, but there is more to Quin than that. He comes when he is needed and goes when he is not. He even says this of himself. And his going can be abrupt to the point of disappearance. In the story entitled "The Bells and Motley" (symbols of the Commedia dell' Arte characters - Harlequin, Columbine, Punchinella, Pierrot, and occasionally a Pagliacco, Pantaloon and a Pierretta – from which our Mr. Quin is drawn), when Satterthwaite asks a local mechanic about the inn with the titled name, the mechanic mentions it serves strange people, and, when pressed, he says "people who come and go." In a later story (and in stories after that), Quin describes himself to Satterthwaite as one who "comes and goes . . . I come and I go." This jars Satterthwaite's memory but he cannot grasp why. Of course, there is the prior reference to the words spoken at the Bells and Motley Inn, but there is more than that. Christie was no slouch of a reader herself. At the start of the Book of Job, Yahweh, who is definitely not an all-knowing god, asks The Advocate [Ha Shatan or Ha Satan in Hebrew] where he has been (because he is late for a meeting of the Sons of God). The Advocate responds that he has been coming and going in the Earth. Christie is playing an intellectual game with the reader. She is suggesting the connection, without making it as narrator. Still later in the series of stories, Satterthwaite begins to refer to Quin as "the advocate for the dead", an appellation of which Quin reminds him in the final story. So, the connection between coming and going and being an advocate by way of explaining Quin can be seen as deliberate on the part of Christie.

    Mr. Quin, then, is something of a spiritual force. I hesitate to say a δαιμονικος [daimonic] force, as the Greeks would perhaps have said of a force of nature such as Pan, because of the unfortunate connotations that Christianity has placed on the transliterated word "demonic". In one story, Satterthwaite at the end bemoans that he has failed to save the life of the woman who was in danger. Quin retorts first, that Satterthwaite none the less exposed the criminals, and second, that there are worse things that can happen to one than dying.

    At the end of the first story, Quin commends Satterthwaite to the Harlequinade, theatrical performances based on the standard characters of the Commedia dell' Arte. These stories are both comic and tragic (as Leoncavallo demonstrated so well), but vary from showing to showing, with no set plot. But, it should be noted, as well that the name of one of the devils in Dante's Inferno is Alichino, and some say that Arlecchino, the Italian for Harlequin, derives from this source. [By the way, Arlecchino is the name of a restaurant in the novel where Satterthwaite sometimes meets Quin.]

    Whatever about Satterthwaite, we the readers are not treated to a Harlequinade until the last story. And, in Leoncavallo fashion, the stage story mimics the stories of the characters in the episode. Tragedy happens off-stage, not on-stage, however, unlike Pagliacci, leaving the confused Satterthwaite asking why, only to be told by Quin that some people and their efforts end up in the rubbish heap, some in the cottage on the hill, an explanation without an explanation that leaves Satterthwaite and the reader philosophically discomfited. But such is the start of real reflection.

    On a final note, the 11th story deserves some comment on its own. The plot is put into motion by Satterthwaite vacationing on a Spanish island, walking up a steep hill to a cliff and encountering there a young man who would have jumped but for the presence of another person there. This novel was published in 1930, four years after the famous disappearance of Agatha Christie for ten days. What is the connection? It is her autobiographical novel *Unfinished Portrait* which she published in 1934 under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. The external structure there is that on an unnamed island, a man walks up a steep slope and encounters a woman who is intending to throw herself into the sea. He sees through her intent, speaks to her, and she tells him the story of her life. The plot resemblances are uncanny, and raise the question whether this plot figure somehow fits into the untold events in Christie's life in 1926. After all, her home at Styles in Sunningdale was not all that far from the cliffs on the southern coast of England.


    Francis A. Miniter

  • @Masters I thought too that he might be an alter ego, or someone who he said in the last line only be seen by Mr. S. However throughout the stories, Mr. S introduced Mr.  Quin to so many people. All of whom talked to him and one (dead harlequin) even recognised him from before and he was even staying at Anna's house.  How come all these people saw and talked to him when he wasn't real. Its too confusing tbh I wish Agatha would have given us the answer... 
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