The Mysterious Mr Quin
||This article consists almost entirely of a plot summary. It should be expanded to provide more balanced coverage that includes real-world context. (February 2011)|
|The Mysterious Mr Quin|
Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
|Cover artist||Not known|
|Publisher||William Collins & Sons|
|14 April 1930|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||288 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Partners in Crime|
|Followed by||Giant's Bread|
The Mysterious Mr Quin is a short story collection written by Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by William Collins & Sons on 14 April 1930 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6) and the US edition at $2.00.
Each chapter or story involves a separate mystery that is solved through the interaction between the characters of Mr Satterthwaite, a socialite, and the eponymous Mr Quin who appears almost magically at the most opportune moments and disappears just as mysteriously. Satterthwaite is a small, observant man who is able to wrap up each mystery through the careful prodding and apposite questions of Quin, who serves as a catalyst each time the men meet.
In Agatha Christie's Autobiography, she claims that Quin and Satterthwaite became two of her favourite characters. The latter reappeared in the 1935 novel, Three Act Tragedy. Outside of this collection, Quin appeared in two further short stories: The Harlequin Tea Set and The Love Detectives, which were both included in the 1992 UK collection Problem at Pollensa Bay. In the US, the former story appeared as the title story in the 1997 collection The Harlequin Tea Set and the latter in the earlier 1950 collection Three Blind Mice and Other Stories.
The Love Detectives, The Harlequin Tea Set, Three Act Tragedy (a Poirot story in which Satterthwaite makes an appearance) and Dead Man's Mirror were included in the collection The Complete Quin and Satterthwaite: Love Detectives (UK, HarperCollins; ISBN 978-0-00-717115-6).
- 1 Plot summaries
- 1.1 The Coming of Mr Quin
- 1.2 The Shadow on the Glass
- 1.3 At the "Bells and Motley"
- 1.4 The Sign in the Sky
- 1.5 The Soul of the Croupier
- 1.6 The Man from the Sea
- 1.7 The Voice in the Dark
- 1.8 The Face of Helen
- 1.9 The Dead Harlequin
- 1.10 The Bird with the Broken Wing
- 1.11 The World's End
- 1.12 Harlequin's Lane
- 2 Literary significance and reception
- 3 References and allusions
- 4 Adaptations
- 5 Publication history
- 6 International titles
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The Coming of Mr Quin
It is New Year's Eve and a house party is taking place at a country house called Royston. Mr Satterthwaite is one of the guests. His hosts are Tom Evesham and his wife, Lady Laura. Among the other guests are Sir Richard Conway and Alex Portal and his Australian wife of two years, Eleanor. Satterthwaite finds her intriguing on many counts, not least of which is the question as to why a blonde would dye her hair dark when the usual convention is the reverse. The clocks strike midnight and as the older members among the guests gather their chairs round the fire, mention is made of Derek Capel, the previous owner of Royston, who committed suicide ten years previously, seemingly without reason. Tom Evesham stops this conversation and a few minutes later the women retire to bed. Satterthwaite observes Eleanor's intense expression before she leaves.
Left to their whisky and the fire, the men restart the conversation regarding Capel but they are uneasy doing so, with mentions of ghosts walking in the night. There is a sudden knock on the door and when it is opened a stranger stands there, the lights through the stained glass above the door casting a multi-coloured look over his motoring clothes. He introduces himself as Mr Harley Quin and asks for shelter while his chauffeur repairs his broken-down car. He knows this part of the world and knew Derek Capel, and he skilfully steers the conversation round to the events of the night in question and the question of why Capel should suddenly take his own life. Satterthwaite cannot help but feel that Quin's appearance on this night was no accident. As the discussion continues, Satterthwaite spots the figure of a woman crouched down in the darkness at the top of the stairs listening in. It is Eleanor Portal.
Capel told the guests on the night of his death that he was about to be engaged. They all assumed that it was to a Marjorie Dilke whom Capel had been seeing a lot of up to a year before, when things had suddenly got a lot quieter. His secretiveness about the engagement makes Conway wonder if the engagement wasn't to someone else, such as a married woman. All agree that Capel's manner that night was like that of a man who had won a large gamble and was defying the odds, yet ten minutes later he shot himself. A late post of letters and newspapers arrived, the first for several days in the snow-bound countryside, but Capel didn't open any of the letters. A policeman was in the house at the time of the tragedy, having found one of Capel's dogs who had strayed and been buried in a snowdrift. He was in the kitchen when the shot was fired. Quin asks them to place the exact date, possibly by reference to some event in the news, and the men remember it was the time of the Appleton case murder trial. Mr Appleton was an old man who mistreated his far younger wife, and Capel was also a friend of theirs. Appleton died by strychnine poisoning but the poison was only found after the body had been exhumed. His wife, who had been seen to smash a decanter of port from which her husband had drunk – presumably to destroy the evidence – had been put on trial and found not guilty, but had then left the country because of the scandal.
Quin is able to take the men through the sequence of events: Capel saw the paragraph in the newspaper reporting that the exhumation order had been given; then he saw a policeman approaching his house. Not knowing that this visit was about the missing dog, he assumed that he was to be arrested, and so shot himself. His audience is stunned at the accusation that Capel was a murderer, objecting that he wasn't at the Appleton's on the day of the death; but Quin points out that strychnine is not soluble and would collect at the bottom of the decanter even if placed there a week before. The question is asked why Mrs Appleton smashed the decanter and, at Quin's prompting, Satterthwaite theorises it was to protect Capel, not to cover her own guilty tracks.
Mr Quin leaves the house, having said his goodbyes. Eleanor Portal is seen to follow him down the drive to say a thank you, and then she and her husband are reconciled. Eleanor is the former Mrs Appleton. Capel's suicide left her unable to clear her name totally – until Quin's appearance.
The Shadow on the Glass
Mr Satterthwaite is a guest for a week at a house party held by Mr and Mrs Unkerton at their home, Greenway's House. The people invited there are an unfortunate mix in that there have been relationships between some of the people there in the past. Mr Richard Scott, there with his new wife Moira, is the best friend of another guest, Major John Porter. Both men are big-game hunters who made trips in the past to the African interior. Mrs Iris Staverton arrives. She is a bewitching woman who supposedly had a relationship in Africa with Richard Scott. Also present is Lady Cynthia Drage, a gossipy society woman, and the young Captain Jimmy Allenson, who is liked by everyone and whom Lady Cynthia met in Egypt the previous year – where the Scotts also met and married.
To add to the atmosphere at the party, the house is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a cavalier who was killed by his wife's roundhead lover. The two then fled the house but, looking back, saw the unmistakable image of a cavalier looking at them from an upstairs window – supposedly some blemish on the glass pane. This has been replaced many times but the mark always returns on the new pane, usually a month or so after it has been installed. This window has now been panelled over and a new window put in the room, which is presently occupied by the Scotts. Satterthwaite shows this window to Major Porter from its nearest viewpoint, which is within the densely hedged privy garden. The blemish cannot be clearly seen from there so Satterthwaite takes his companion to a grassy knoll some distance from the house where the image is clearer. On the way, Major Porter confides to Satterthwaite that Mrs Staverton ought not to have come to the party. On the way back, they overhear Richard Scott and Mrs Staverton talking, the lady telling the hunter that he will be sorry, and that jealousy can drive a man to murder. Satterthwaite has a premonition of tragedy.
That evening, Mrs Unkerton tells Satterthwaite that she has sent for a glazier to replace the haunted pane of glass, determined to be rid of the image once and for all. Satterthwaite does not believe she will be successful, but realises that she also senses the tension in the house. The next evening, Satterthwaite and Porter retrace their steps in the dusk to the grassy knoll and see that Mrs Unkerton's plan has not yet been put into place, as the cavalier's image is still there. On their way back, they hear two shots from the privy garden and find Mrs Staverton holding a gun and two dead people on the ground – Captain Allenson, shot in the chest, and Mrs Scott, shot in the back. Mrs Staverton insists that she simply reached the two corpses first and picked up the discarded gun. While the police are fetched, Satterthwaite notices a spot of blood on the earlobe of Mrs Scott and sees that one of her earrings has been torn away.
The police arrive and carry out their investigations. The situation looks bad for Mrs Staverton as no one else was seen to enter the privy garden prior to the shots being fired, although the lady herself insists that she turned the corner after hearing the shots and then found the bodies. In the middle of the enquiry a guest arrives at the house – Mr Quin. Satterthwaite vouches for him and his ability to help people see problems from new angles. Prompted by Quin, Satterthwaite tells of seeing the torn earlobe, and it is realised that the earring could not have been torn out as Mrs Scott fell. It must have been shot out which means that she was hit by two bullets and the one that passed through her also killed Captain Allenson, meaning that she must have been close to him at the time, perhaps in his arms. The Scotts met in Cairo the previous winter when Allenson was also there – were Mrs Scott and Allenson lovers?
During further questioning, Unkerton reveals that the glazier did visit that morning, even though Satterthwaite and Porter both saw the image of the cavalier some hours later. Rushing to the haunted room, they find a small feather in the panelling which matches the ostrich feather from one of Mrs Scott's hats. Quin verbally recreates the crime – Richard Scott saw his wife and her lover from the window when he pulled the panel back. Remembering the story of the cavalier, he donned his wife's hat to look like the cavalier's image (in case anyone were watching) and shot the two from his window, then throwing the pistol onto the grass below. He was happy to let Mrs Staverton take the blame as, contrary to popular belief, she in fact fell for Porter in Africa, not Scott. Porter didn't realise this, and Quin suggests he go and comfort the wrongly accused lady.
At the "Bells and Motley"
Satterthwaite is held up one night in the village of Kirklington Mallet when his car suffers three punctures in a row. Leaving his chauffeur to effect repairs in the local garage, he goes to the local pub – the "Bells and Motley" – to eat and to shelter from an oncoming storm. There he is delighted to find Mr Quin waiting in the coffee room of the inn. The landlord makes reference to the storm as being similar to the one that broke on the night that a Captain Harwell came back with his bride, and Satterthwaite realises why the name of the village is familiar and what has brought him here to meet Quin. They are to talk over a mystery and solve it.
Just over a year ago, a large local house, Ashley Grange, was bought by Miss Eleanor Le Couteau, a rich young French Canadian. She resisted the advances of all the eligible local young men for her hand in marriage (most of them were declared to be fortune hunters). One day, Captain Richard Harwell stayed at the inn to take part in a fox hunt. Miss Le Couteau fell for him, two months later they were engaged, and after three months they married. After a two-week honeymoon they returned to Abbey Grange on the stormy night referred to and, early the next morning, after being seen walking in the garden by John Mathias, a gardener, the Captain totally disappeared. Suspicion fell on Stephen Grant, a young lad in charge of Harwell's horses who had recently been discharged by the Captain and who was seen in the vicinity on the morning of the disappearance. Nothing could be proved against him, however. A further mystery came to light when no next-of-kin of Captain Harwell could be traced, nor any connections with his past life. The police suspected an imposter but were mystified when it was proven that Harwell hadn't received a penny of his wife's fortune. Heartbroken, she soon sold the Grange and all its contents, jewellery included, to an American millionaire.
Another suspect was John Mathias himself, a middle-aged man who was frequently laid up with rheumatism and who had been employed at the Grange for just a month together with his wife. He returned to their cottage twenty-five minutes after the Captain left the house, which would have been time enough to dispose of the body; but no motive could be found. The couple, tired of the suspicions of the locals, have since moved on.
Quin's questioning of Satterthwaite once again enables him to see events in a new light. In this instance, prompted to remember the news events of the time in question, Satterthwaite recalls a cat burglary from a French Château where a valuable collection of jewels was stolen and the chief suspects were a family of three acrobats called the Clondinis. They talk of Harwell's disappearance as being like a conjuring trick where the audience's attention is diverted from what is really happening by some other event.
In the case of Harwell, could the sale (for cash) of the Grange and all its valuable contents have been the real trick played, and Harwell's disappearance the diversion? Quin points out that Miss Le Couteau's past was as little known as that of Harwell's, and she, her supposed husband, and Mrs Mathias could easily have been the Clondinis in disguise, staging this elaborate laundering of the proceeds of their crime – especially as Mathias and Harwell were never actually seen together at the same time. An examination of the jewels bought by the American millionaire could provide proof, if they matched the ones stolen in France, and Satterthwaite agrees to set the wheels in motion. The daughter of the landlord of the "Bells and Motley", in love with Stephen Grant, will have her mind put at rest.
The Sign in the Sky
Mr Satterthwaite has been attending a newsworthy trial at the Old Bailey, and on the final day hears the judge's summing up, the verdict of guilty, and the sentence of death. He wanders across to the select and expensive Arlecchino restaurant in Soho where he finds Mr Quin sitting at a table, and tells him of the result of the trial. They begin to discuss the case, with Quin stating that he has not heard all of the evidence.
Lady Vivien Barnaby was the young wife of a far older husband, Sir George Barnaby, and trapped in a loveless marriage. She started to make advances to a local young gentleman farmer named Martin Wylde, seeing in him a means of escape from her life. Wylde did enter into an affair with Lady Barnaby, but at the same time was involved in a relationship with the daughter of the local doctor called Sylvia Dale. Lady Barnaby became more and more hysterical with Wylde; and on the morning of Friday 13th she sent him a letter, begging him to come to her house at Deering Hill that night at six o'clock, when her husband would be out at a bridge game.
Although he at first denied it, Wylde did go to the house, and his fingerprints were found in the room where, at 6:20 pm, Lady Barnaby was killed with a single blast from a shotgun. The servants all heard the shot and rushed to the room. No one was there but their dead mistress. They panicked for several minutes, then tried contacting the police, but found that the phone was out of order. One of them went on foot and met Sir George returning from his game. All of the parties involved had alibis – Sir George left his game just before 6:30 pm, Sylvia Dale was at the station seeing a friend off on the 6:28 pm train, and Sir George's secretary, Henry Thompson, was in London on business. Wylde admitted under questioning that he took his gun to Deering Hill, but stated that he left it outside the door and forgot it when he left the house, in a high temper due to a scene he had had with Lady Barnaby. He claimed to have left the house before the time of the death, but gave a reason for the time it took him to get home, which no one seems to believe.
Quin enigmatically asks about a servant who gave evidence at the inquest but not at the trial, and Satterthwaite tells him that she has gone to Canada. Quin's attitude to this fact prompts Satterthwaite down the line of wondering if he should go there and interview the missing housemaid. Satterthwaite tracks the maid, Louise Bullard, to Banff and goes on an ocean voyage to Canada where he finds her working in a hotel. She is an impressionable girl who speaks of seeing the shape of a giant hand in the sky caused by the smoke of a passing train at the very time she heard the shot. She does, however, tell Satterthwaite that Henry Thompson suggested the post in Canada to her, the job paying an extremely large wage, although she had to leave quickly to take it.
Satterthwaite returns to England and makes straight for the Arlecchino restaurant where he again meets Quin. He tells him that he has failed to get any useful evidence out of the girl, but Quin is not so sure and points out the train smoke that she saw. Trains only use the line at ten minutes to the hour and twenty-eight minutes past, therefore the shot could not have been fired at 6:20 pm. Satterthwaite remembers hearing that Sir George is a fussy man of fixed habits who himself rewinds the clocks in the house every Friday. Satterthwaite realises that Sir George put them back by ten minutes to give himself an alibi; he had intercepted his wife's note that morning, and realised she and her lover were going to their tryst. He put the telephone out of order to prevent the police from logging an emergency call against a specific time. Having heard the maid's hysterical story of the sign in the sky, he realised that she alone had evidence that could smash his alibi, and so got his secretary to get her out of the country.
Quin suggests Satterthwaite take this evidence to Sylvia Dale who has remained loyal to Wylde all of this time, despite his affair with Lady Barnaby. She goes to Sir George and, telling him a lie that the police now know of Louise Bullard's story, she extracts a confession from him.
The Soul of the Croupier
Mr Satterthwaite, as per his usual annual routine, is spending the first few months of the year in Monte Carlo. Regretting the changing times in which there are fewer and fewer of the aristocratic elite to be seen in the resort, he is cheered up by the sight in the hotel terrace rooms of the Countess Czarnova. She has been coming there for many years, sometimes in the company of royalty and titled people. Many stories surround the woman and her mysterious background and history. Her companion now is a young mid-western American man, Franklin Rudge, who is clearly enraptured of the attractive and worldly woman.
Soon afterwards, Satterthwaite sees another of Rudge's party on the terrace. This is a young woman, Elizabeth Martin, who has none of the other woman's sophistication but nevertheless does not necessarily convey an air of innocence or naïvety. She is straightforward and sensible, and possesses high ideals. She confides in Satterthwaite her misgivings concerning the Countess and her relationship with Rudge. She leaves, and soon afterwards Franklin joins Satterthwaite. He is enjoying his tour of Europe, although he confesses that he is disappointed with the casino itself and its gambling routine. His conversation moves on to the Countess: he praises the woman herself and speaks with great interest of the life she has led.
Satterthwaite is more dubious of the tales she has passed on of her adventures in diplomatic intrigues and the like. Franklin is at a loss to understand why women everywhere seem antagonistic towards the Countess, and puts it down to an inherent fault in their sex. Soon afterwards the lady herself joins them and, after Franklin has gone, the conversation continues, during which Satterthwaite receives the direct impression that he is being warned off by the Countess. She means to have Franklin and she perceives Satterthwaite as the probable main impediment to her plans. He is puzzled as to why she should be after the young American when she would appear to have everything that she could desire.
When she has gone, Satterthwaite is delighted to receive his next visitor on the terrace – his old friend, Harley Quin. They move into the hotel gardens and Satterthwaite finds himself easily telling Quin of the relationships he is observing, and the fact that the Countess, for reasons best known to her, is coming between Franklin Rudge and Elizabeth Martin.
The following night at the casino there is an incident when the Countess is at the roulette table. The only woman wearing no jewellery, the Countess is losing heavily on number after number. Finally, as Satterthwaite bets on 5, she bets the maximum on 6. The ball on the wheel lands on 5 but it is to the Countess that the croupier passes the winnings. Satterthwaite is about to object but the look that the Countess gives him halts his speech and he lets her take the money, being a gentleman and keen not to make a scene.
Quin commiserates with him and tells him of a supper party he has arranged that night at a bohemian café called La Caveau. Satterthwaite goes there and takes Elizabeth. Franklin arrives with the Countess but Quin brings with him the casino's croupier whom he names as Pierre Vaucher. During the party's conversation, Vaucher tells a strange story of a jeweller who worked in Paris many years ago who, despite being engaged, fell for a half-starved girl and married her. His family disowned him, and over the next two years he realised what a mistake he had made, as the woman made his life an emotional hell. Finally she left him, but she reappeared two years later, dressed in rich clothes and fabulous jewels, and mocked him with evil and malicious comments. She left again and the man sank further into drunkenness, eventually saved by the discipline of the army during the First World War. The man eventually became a croupier at a casino and saw his ex-wife, now in a reduced state – in as much as her jewels were patently false to his trained eye – and he realised that she was once more on the edge of destitution. He therefore passed another man's winnings to her. At this point in the story, the Countess jumps up and cries, "Why?" Vaucher smiles and replies that it was pity that made him do it. He has an unlighted cigarette and she offers to light it for him, using a spill [handy piece of paper] to do so. She leaves and Vaucher realises that the spill is the fifty thousand franc note, her winnings and all she had in the world. Too proud to accept charity, she burnt it in front of his eyes. Vaucher's feelings for her are rekindled, although the reader is not apprised of Vaucher and the Countess's fate. The scales have fallen from Franklin's eyes as to the true nature of the Countess, and he and Elizabeth are brought together again.
The Man from the Sea
Mr Satterthwaite had forgone his usual trip to the French Riviera and is instead on holiday on a Spanish island. Regretting the fact that there is no one there that he knows or who is of a sufficiently high social standing, he occupies his time by walking and often goes to the garden of a villa called La Paz which stands on a high cliff overlooking the sea. He has developed a love of the garden but the villa, which is shuttered and seems empty, intrigues him. He imagines it to be the home of a once-beautiful Spanish dancer who now hides herself away from the world.
After exchanging pleasantries with the gardener, Satterthwaite makes his way to the cliff edge and soon hears approaching footsteps. It proves to be a somewhat boyish-looking man who is nevertheless over forty years of age. The man seems annoyed that he doesn't have the spot to himself. He tells Satterthwaite that he came here the previous night and found someone there seemingly in fancy dress, in "a kind of Harlequin rig". Satterthwaite is surprised at this mention of his old friend and tells his new acquaintance that Mr Quin's appearances usually presage revelations and discoveries. The younger man comments that his appearance seemed very sudden, as if he came from the sea.
The man introduces himself as Anthony Cosden and tells Satterthwaite of his ordinary life to date; however he has now been told by a Harley Street doctor that he has cancer and only six months to live. He came back to this island, which he had visited some twenty years before, and implies that, before he becomes too ill, he means to kill himself by throwing himself from the cliff. He has been thwarted in this intent now on two occasions: the previous night by the man in the Harlequin costume, and now by Satterthwaite. The elder man, seeing providence interfering, tries to persuade Cosden not to take this path, but the younger man is good-naturedly resolute, saying that he will return when neither Satterthwaite nor anyone else is there and carry out his intention.
Cosden leaves and some impulse takes Satterthwaite up to the villa. Pulling open one of the closed shutters, he sees a troubled woman in traditional Spanish dress looking at him. He stammers an apology which makes the woman realise that he is English, and as he turns to leave she calls him back. She, too, is English, and she invites him into the house for tea as she wishes to talk to someone. She unburdens herself to Satterthwaite, telling him that she has lived here for most of the last twenty-three years, for all but the first year as a widow.
She married an Englishman when she was eighteen and he bought the villa for them. The marriage proved to be a dreadful mistake as her husband abused her to the point where her baby was stillborn. Some girls staying in the local hotel dared him to try and swim off the dangerous sea at the base of the cliff and he foolishly accepted. He drowned and his body was battered against the rocks as his wife watched. Soon afterwards, suffering loneliness, she had a brief affair with a young Englishman who was visiting the island, the result of which was an illegitimate son born nine months later. He is now grown up and happy, not knowing of his father and serious about a girl whose parents want to know his antecedents should the couple wish to become engaged. To save him pain and scandal, she is planning to commit suicide to hide the truth from him forever. For the second time that day, Satterthwaite finds himself persuading someone not to take their own life. He asks her to take no action for twenty-four hours, but to leave the shutter he opened unlatched and to wait there tonight. He returns to the hotel, finds Cosden, and refers obliquely to the shutter on the villa that he opened. Cosden understands his meaning and leaves.
The next day he goes back to La Paz and finds the Englishwoman there, her entire appearance transformed with happiness. She and Cosden, reunited after twenty years, are to be married that day by the Consul, and she will be able to introduce her son to his father. She refuses to believe that Anthony will die. She will make sure he lives.
Satterthwaite makes his way back to the cliff top and is not surprised to find Quin there. His friend smilingly pretends not to know what Satterthwaite has been up to but tells him that the man who drowned in the sea twenty years ago truly loved his wife – almost to the point of madness – and the desire to make amends for past transgressions can sometimes be so strong that a messenger can be found. As Satterthwaite leaves, Quin walks back towards the cliff edge, destination unknown.
The Voice in the Dark
Mr Satterthwaite is back on the French Riviera and enjoying the sunshine at Cannes with Lady Barbara Stranleigh, someone he has known since his youth. She is, as Satterthwaite describes her, "beautiful, unscrupulous, completely callous, interested solely in herself." She has been married four times, and came into the family title after a series of deaths and tragedies some forty years before, the final one of which was the shipwreck of a vessel named the Uralia which sank off the coast of New Zealand, killing her elder sister, Beatrice.
Lady Stranleigh confesses she is worried about Margery, the daughter from one of her marriages. She is a sturdy outdoors sort of girl who prefers fox hunting to the Riviera or balls and who has, in the past few months, reported hearing voices in the night at their family home of Abbot's Mede back in Wiltshire. The house doesn't have the reputation of being haunted and Lady Stranleigh asks a reluctant Satterthwaite to go back to England and use psychic researchers to find out what is going on. On the train ride home, Satterthwaite is delighted to meet up with Mr Quin, and he outlines the story to him. Quin tells him that he will be staying near Abbot's Mede at the "Bells and Motley" inn where the two met previously and, if Satterthwaite is in need of help, he should call on him there.
At Abbot's Mede, Satterthwaite meets Margery who tells him that for the past couple of months she has heard voices in the dark of her bedroom. Sometimes it is a whisper, sometimes a clear voice telling her to "Give back what is not yours. Give back what you have stolen." On each occasion she has switched on the light, but no one is there. She has now taken to having her mother's maid, Clayton, sleep in the next room, but she hasn't heard the voices, even though they have been clear to Margery. Events reached a more sinister turn the previous night when Margery had a dream that a spike was entering her throat and woke to find that some sharp object was indeed being pressed against her neck; the voice murmured, "You have stolen what is mine. This is death!" Margery screamed and Clayton ran into the dark room, feeling something brush past her as she did so.
Satterthwaite speaks to Clayton, an elderly, blue-eyed, grey-haired woman who was also a survivor of the Uralia and who confesses that she put Margery's claims down to imagination until the events of last night. Staying as guests in the house are an old friend of Margery's, Marcia Keane, and a family cousin, Roley Vavasour. Both have been staying at the house since the time when the voices started, thus they attract Satterthwaite's suspicions.
The post arrives and among the items is a letter from Lady Stranleigh thanking Margery for the chocolates she sent and telling her that she has been laid low by a dose of food poisoning. Margery tells Satterthwaite she never sent her mother chocolates. Aside from the long-term guests in the house, there are also a Mrs Casson and a Mrs Lloyd, the former a spiritualist and the latter a medium, brought in by Roley, who organises a séance. After speaking to the medium's spirit guide, a Red Indian Cherokee, the voice of Lady Stranleigh's sister, Beatrice, comes through. Satterthwaite tries her with a question which he knows only she will know the answer to, but she answers correctly. 'Beatrice' repeats "Give back what is not yours."
Somewhat shaken by this event, Satterthwaite questions Margery about Roley and finds out that he is the heir to the title and estates should her mother die. He has asked Margery to marry him but she has refused, being engaged to a local curate, somewhat against her mother's wishes.
Lady Stranleigh sends a telegram to say that she is arriving home early, so Satterthwaite retires from the matter and returns to London. However, he is shocked to read in the morning paper that Lady Stranleigh has died at Abbot's Mede, being found dead in her bath from drowning. He returns to Wiltshire but makes for the "Bells and Motley" where, as promised, he finds Mr Quin. His friend listens to the entire tale but tells Satterthwaite that he has solved these matters himself before when, as now, he has been in full possession of the facts, and he can do so now.
Satterthwaite returns to Abbot's Mede and finds a saddened Margery. She has drawn up a new will and asks him to be the second witness, Clayton being the first. Satterthwaite is about to sign when he sees Clayton's first name – Alice – and realises she is the same maid who, many years earlier, he had kissed in a hotel's passage. He remembers she had brown eyes and, stunned, tells Margery that the woman she knows as Clayton, who has blue eyes, must be her Aunt Beatrice. "Clayton" has a scar where she was struck on the head during the sinking of the Uralia and he imagines this blow destroyed her memory at the time. Her avaricious sister used the opportunity to swap her identity and inherit the family money, and it is only now that her memory is returning, but in her mentally unhinged state she began her persecution of her niece. The two go to Clayton's room but find the woman dead, probably from heart failure. As Satterthwaite says, "Perhaps it is best that way."
The Face of Helen
Mr Satterthwaite is at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Not caring for Cavalleria Rusticana, he deliberately arrives late so as to see only Pagliacci. He arrives, in fact, just before the interval, when he bumps into Mr Quin. He invites Quin to watch the second opera with him in his private box, from where they spot an absolutely beautiful-looking girl in the stalls before the lights go down. In the next interval they spot the girl siting with an earnest-looking young man, and see that they are joined by another young man whose arrival appears to have generated some tension in the group.
At the end of the evening Satterthwaite offers Quin a lift home, but the invitation is politely declined, and so Satterthwaite is making his own way to where his chauffeur-driven car is parked when he again sees the three people from the Opera House. Almost immediately a fight breaks out between the two young men and Satterthwaite rescues the girl from the fracas. He suggests that he drive her home. She accepts and he takes her to Chelsea. She tells him her name is Gillian West, the intense man is Philip Eastney, and the other is Charlie Burns; and she hopes that Eastney hasn't hurt Burns. Satterthwaite promises to find out and assuage her fears.
The next Sunday, Satterthwaite is in Kew Gardens when his path again crosses that of Gillian West and Charlie Burns, and he finds that the two have just become engaged. Gillian is nervous of the effect the news will have on Philip Eastney, and Charlie confides that, in the past, men have lost their heads over his fiancée and done stupid things as a result. The next Thursday, Satterthwaite goes back to Chelsea at Gillian's invitation and has tea with her. To her relief, Eastney has accepted the news with good grace and given her two wedding presents. One is a new radio and the other is an unusual glass sculpture which is topped off by a bubble-like iridescent ball. Eastney has also made a strange request – that Gillian stay at home tonight and listen to the broadcast of music on the radio.
Satterthwaite is uneasy as he leaves Gillian, feeling that the appearance of Quin at Covent Garden must mean that there is some unusual business afoot, but he cannot place exactly what is going to happen. Wanting to discuss his fears with Quin, he goes to the Arlecchino restaurant where he met him once before when discussing the trial of Martin Wylde (see: The Sign in the Sky). Quin is not there, but Eastney is, and the two men talk – the younger man regaling Satterthwaite with tales of working in the testing and manufacture of poison gas during the war.
Leaving the restaurant, Satterthwaite is still uneasy and eventually he buys a paper for that evening's radio programmes and realises that Gillian West is in great danger. He rushes to her flat and drags her out before the tenor's voice reaches a peak during a performance of "The Shepherd's Song". A stray cat goes through the door to the flat and is found dead – killed by the gasses freed from the glass ball when it shattered as a result of the sound of the radio.
Satterthwaite meets Eastney who is pacing on the Chelsea Embankment and tells him that a dead cat was removed from the flat, i.e. that Eastney's plan failed. The two men part, and a few minutes later a policeman asks Satterthwaite if he also heard what seemed like the sound of a large splash, which both men agree would probably be what someone throwing himself from an embankment into the river would sound like.
The Dead Harlequin
Mr Satterthwaite attends a showing at an art gallery by a rising young artist called Frank Bristow. There he is stopped in his tracks by a painting called "The Dead Harlequin" which portrays a dead figure on a floor, and the same figure looking in through an open window at his own corpse. The man portrayed is Mr Harley Quin and the room shown is the Terrace Room at Charnley, a house owned by Lord Charnley which Satterthwaite has previously visited. He immediately buys the picture and meets the artist, whom he invites for dinner that night at his house.
The artist arrives as promised. Satterthwaite has set a place for Quin, fully expecting his friend to put in an appearance, and also for a Colonel Monkton who was at Charnley the night fourteen years ago when the previous Lord Charnley committed suicide. The house has a ghostly history, with the spectre of Charles I walking headless on the terrace and a weeping lady with a silver ewer seen whenever there is a tragedy in the family. Several of the holders to the title met violent deaths, but what made this latest death so strange is the circumstances in which it happened: the occasion was a fancy dress ball to celebrate the return from honeymoon of Lord Charnley and his new bride. Colonel Monkton was one of several people who stood at the top of a flight of stairs and saw Lord Charnley pass below. A woman called out to him but he walked on as if in a daze. He passed through the Terrace Room and into the Oak Parlour that leads off it. This latter room had several legends attached to it including one of Charles I hiding in a priest hole there; duels taking place, with the bullet holes still in the wall; and a strange stain on the floor which also reappeared even when the wood was replaced. The people on the stairs heard the door lock behind him and then a shot. They couldn't get into the oak Parlour using either a second locked door from another room or through the shuttered window, and so they broke the door down and found the body with curiously little blood coming from it. No one benefited from the death, not even the next in line to the title, Hugo Charnley, as Alix, Lord Charnley's widow, was revealed to be pregnant and when her boy was born later on, he automatically inherited.
Satterthwaite receives an unexpected guest – Aspasia Glen, the celebrated dramatist. She was at the gallery and was also taken with "The Dead Harlequin" and wants to buy it. Satterthwaite dislikes the lady's false coquettish manner and is both relieved and surprised when Alix Charnley telephones him part way through his conversation, also wanting to buy the picture. Recognising that events are coming to a head – as they always do in matters involving Mr Quin – Satterthwaite asks Alix Charnley to come round to the house immediately. He escorts Miss Glen to where his other guests are and is not surprised to see that Mr Quin has arrived. When Alix also joins them, she is introduced to the others and recognises Miss Glen, presumably from one of her stage performances.
They all start to relive that dreadful night and now, after fourteen years, Alix feels able to reveal that the reason for the suicide was a letter Lord Charnley received from the invited governess telling him that she was pregnant by him – just a month after his marriage to Alix. Monkton thinks that all is explained, but Satterthwaite wants to know why Bristow's picture portrays the dead figure in the Terrace Room and not in the adjoining Oak Parlour. It is almost as if the death occurred there and the body was put in the Oak Parlour afterwards; but, as Monkton says, they saw Lord Charnley walk into the Oak Parlour. Satterthwaite points out though that they saw a figure in fancy dress who could have been anyone. The only person who called him "Lord Charnley" was the same person who was allegedly pregnant by him. A shot then fired in the locked room could have been accounted for by another bullet hole in the wall to go with the ones created by past duels, and there is a priest hole to hide the person just seen entering the room. Any bloodstain on the floor of the Terrace Room would have been covered by a valuable red Bokhara rug which seems to have been placed there on that night only, and the body was therefore dragged on the rug into the Oak Parlour. The stains on the rug could have been cleaned up by a lady with a ewer and if anyone saw her, she would have been taken for the resident ghost.
Alix suddenly recognises Miss Glen as the woman who called out to Lord Charnley that night. The accused woman rushes out of Satterthwaite's house after confessing that she loved Hugo – who was the man seen in the fancy dress costume, Lord Charnley already being dead – and helped him with the murder, but he abandoned her soon after and died the previous year. Alix is relieved. The letter to her husband was false, written only to give a motive for suicide, and she can now tell his son that his father has no stain on his reputation. When the picture's artist prepares to leave, it is discovered that Mr Quin has already left without being noticed.
The Bird with the Broken Wing
Mr Satterthwaite is at a house party in the cold and rainy country, very much missing the comforts and warmth of his London home and looking forward to returning there, so much so that he has turned down an invitation from a young lady called Madge Keeley to join her and her father at his home at Laidell for another party starting that day. Falling asleep in front of the library fire, he is half-listening to a session of table-turning being conducted by the young members of the party in the same room. He is snapped wide-awake when the message spells out the word "QUIN" followed by "LAI". He instantly calls Madge Keeley and resurrects his invitation to Laidell.
Arriving at the house, he guesses from Madge's manner that her engagement is about to be announced and, coming down to dinner soon after his arrival, meets Roger Graham, her fiancé. Also there are Roger's mother and Madge's father, the owner of Laidell. David Keeley is an inconsequential man, little noticed by anyone despite being one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the age. At the dinner table there is also among the guests a young woman whose ethereal yet somewhat damaged beauty catches Satterthwaite's eye. He christens her "The Bird with the Broken Wing". He finds out that she is Mabelle Annesley, the youngest member of the Clydesley family, which has been dogged by ill-fortune over the years.
During the conversation between the men-folk that occurs after the ladies have left the table, Satterthwaite concludes that Roger Graham has something on his mind. On his way back to the party after briefly going to his room, Satterthwaite passes the terrace room and sees Mabelle inside it alone, illuminated by the moonlight. Talking to her he discovers that she saw a figure in the woods that day who could only have been Mr Quin. Taking this as a cue that she has some unhappiness in her life, he finds out instead that she is blissfully happy. Mabelle's husband, Gerard, comes to fetch her to play as promised on her ukulele for the party and she does so, playing and singing for the assembled group. They then break up for the night and go to their respective rooms.
The next morning, Satterthwaite is woken up by a shocked Madge who breaks the news that Mabelle has been found dead, supposedly by suicide, hanging herself on the back of the door. The police arrive and the case is conducted by an old acquaintance of Satterthwaite – Inspector Winkfield – who addresses the assembled group to ascertain the facts. Mabelle had been prompted to return to the drawing room to fetch her ukulele by Madge, and that is the last that anyone saw of her. Gerard Annesley fell asleep in his adjoining room half an hour later without hearing her coming to bed, and heard no sounds of her suicide in the night. Mr Satterthwaite insists that he is certain that the lady did not kill herself but in fact was murdered. The inspector questions him alone and confirms that his suspicions are correct. The rope which they found round her neck was much thicker than the cord marks that they found on her. Thinking through the events of the night and the following morning, Satterthwaite remembers seeing smoke coming from Mrs Graham's room. She is a non-smoker and he investigates the cause. He finds some partially burnt letters in the grate which appear to be from Mabelle to Roger about an affair that they are conducting. He confronts Mrs Graham, who admits that she burnt them to prevent her son being suspected of murder. Roger admits they were lovers but claims he didn't kill her.
Returning to the drawing room Satterthwaite finds one of the other house guests sadly holding Mabelle's ukulele in her hands. As she strums the strings, one snaps, and they notice that it is an A-string but that it is in the wrong place. Satterthwaite suddenly realises that the murder was committed with the original string, and confronts David Keeley in the library. He was the last person downstairs, switching off the lights as Mabelle returned for her instrument. He quickly killed her and then later in the night returned to move the body to her own room. Laughing insanely, Keeley admits the crime as Winkfield walks into the room.
Returning home by train, Satterthwaite meets Quin and sadly admits he failed to prevent Mabelle's death. Quin replies that he did save the wrong people from being accused of the crime, and asks if there are not greater evils than death. Satterthwaite closes his eyes, thinking about Mabelle, and when he opens his eyes, Mr Quin has already gone; but there's a bird made from a blue stone where Quin had been seated.
The World's End
Mr Satterthwaite is in Corsica with the Duchess of Leith, a somewhat difficult, autocratic, and miserly lady. After a difficult crossing from Cannes, they settle into the hotel and at their first meal there the duchess spots a young lady she knows called Naomi Carlton Smith. She is a distant relation of the duchess and is a bohemian artist who was involved with a young writer who, the year before, was accused of stealing jewellery and imprisoned. The duchess enquires if she has a car, and finding out that she does, insists on her driving herself and Satterthwaite on a tour of the island the next day. However as it is only a two-seater the duchess inveigles another guest at the hotel called Mr Tomlinson into joining them with his four-seater car. At the appointed time they drive up into the mountains and eventually stop where the road finishes at an isolated coastal village of the name of Coti-Chiavari, which Naomi terms "the World's End". There, Satterthwaite is delighted to see Mr Quin sitting on a boulder and looking out to sea. He has a feeling that Quin has turned up "in the nick of time" but he cannot fathom why he feels that way. The group has brought a picnic with them, but as it is starting to snow they shelter in a cassecroute wherein they find three other visitors from England: a theatrical producer called Vyse, a famous actress called Rosina Nunn, and her husband, Mr Judd. They are also enjoying a picnic and the two parties settle down to eat.
During the conversation that ensues, Miss Nunn admits to her constant habit of being absentminded and the occasion she almost lost her pearls, which were insured, unlike her stolen opal. The thief was called Alec Gerard, a young playwright, who supposedly took it from her theatre dressing room. Although the jewel was not found on him, he was unable to satisfactorily account for a large sum of money that he was able to pay into his bank the next day. Miss Nunn has cause to empty her bag and within it is a wooden box which Mr Tomlinson recognises as an Indian Box. Realising that no one knows the true nature of such an item, Tomlinson shows the group how the box contains a secret compartment and they are all shocked when the missing opal is found within it. They realise the miscarriage of justice that has occurred. Satterthwaite and Quin again bid each other goodbye at the remote spot.
Mr Satterthwaite has accepted an invitation to stay at the country house of a couple called Denham. He is uncertain as to why he has done so as they are not part of the usual circles he inhabits. John Denham is in his forties and his wife, Anna, is a refugee from the Russian revolution. Arriving at their house, he is told that the couple are out but expected back soon, and Mr Satterthwaite passes the time by going for a walk in the garden. From where he progresses to a lane called "Harlequin's Lane" which borders the grounds. He is not surprised to meet Quin, whom he finds is also staying with the Denhams. They walk down the lane, known locally as the "Lover's Lane", to its termination, a former quarry which is now a rubbish tip. Returning to the house they meet a young girl in the lane called Molly Stanwell who is also staying in the house. She tells them that the Denhams have returned, having been at rehearsals for a local masquerade to be held that night. Part of the masquerade is an enactment of the Commedia dell'arte for which two professional dancers are coming down from London to play the parts of Harlequin and Columbine.
At dinner that night the conversation turns to the Soviet state and the tragic murder of the ballerina Kharsanova by the Bolsheviks in the earliest days of the revolution. After dinner a phone call is received to say that the two dancers for the masquerade have been injured on their way to the house in a car crash. The car was being driven by another Russian called Prince Sergius Oranoff who arrives later on, and Satterthwaite wonders whether he and Anna are in any way romantically linked; but he is amazed afterwards, while taking another walk, that the lovers in the lane are in fact John Denham and Molly Stanwell. Someone else has seen the couple though – Anna herself.
The masquerade takes place with Anna playing the part of Columbine while Quin is in the role of Harlequin. The performance is a success, so much so that Satterthwaite recognises by her dancing that Anna is in fact Kharsanova and did not die, but was rescued by John Denham when he was in Russia at the end of the First World War. In the darkness of the garden, she tells Satterthwaite that she gave up dancing at John's insistence, but tonight she has found herself again and intends to elope with Prince Oranoff, and then she moves off. Later on, he sees Anna and a figure dressed as Harlequin in the "Lover's Lane", but it appears to Satterthwaite that the man under the costume is John Denham. Soon afterwards Prince Oranoff is looking for Anna and her maid says that she saw her in the lane alone. Satterthwaite is afraid for her and he and the prince rush down to the tip where they find Anna's dead body. Quin turns up and Satterthwaite asks why the maid couldn't see the figure of Harlequin. Satterthwaite can see things other people cannot, Quin tells him. Satterthwaite starts to say something to Quin, but the other is already gone.
Literary significance and reception
The Times Literary Supplement review of 29 May 1930 failed to comment on the merits of the book, confining itself to summarising the relationship between Quin and Satterthwaite and concluding that the latter is helped "to solve old mysteries, sometimes to restore happiness to the unfortunate, and sometimes to see, if not avert, impending tragedy".
The New York Times Book Review of 4 May 1930 started by saying, "To call the tales in this collection detective stories would be misleading. For all of them deal with mystery and some of them with crime, they are, nevertheless, more like fairy tales." The anonymous reviewer described Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin and their relationship to the stories and each other, and then concluded, "The book offers a rare treat for the discriminating reader."
In the Daily Express (25 April 1930), Harold Nicolson said, "Mr. Quinn and Mr. Satterthwaite are, to me, new characters, and I should like much more of them. Mrs. Christie always writes intelligently, and I enjoyed these stories as much as any she has written."
Robert Barnard: "An odd collection, with the whimsical-supernatural element strong, though not always unpleasing. There are some notably dreadful stories (Bird with the Broken Wing, Voice in the Dark) but the unusual number of erudite or cultural references bears witness to Christie's own opinion of these stories – they were aimed more 'up-market' than usual."
References and allusions
References to other works
- The character of Mr Harley Quin is clearly based upon Harlequin from the 16th century Italian Commedia dell'arte. The earlier versions of the character were that of a clown or fool, but in the 18th century the character changed to become a romantic hero. In The Coming of Mr. Quin, Quin tells Satterthwaite "I must recommend the Harlequinade to your attention. It is dying out nowadays – but it repays attention, I assure you." The Harlequinade was the still-later British stage version, in which Harlequin has magical powers, and brings about changes of scenery by a touch of his slapstick. Christie also refers to the Harlequin character in the Masque from Italy sequence of poems in her 1925 collection The Road of Dreams (reprinted in 1973 in Poems), and in her first-ever published magazine short story The Affair at the Victory Ball (1923) (here, in the Commedia dell'arte version of the characters), published in book form in the US collection The Under Dog and Other Stories (1951) and in the UK in Poirot's Early Cases (1974).
- In The Mysterious Mr Quin, several impressions are given to the reader, through Satterthwaite's almost subconscious thoughts, of the connection between the appearance of Quin and the traditional costume of Harlequin, the latter being a dark mask and clothing composed of multi-coloured diamond-shapes, as featured on the cover of the UK first edition of the book (see image above). In The Coming of Mr Quin, Quin is first described in the following passage:
- "Framed in the doorway stood a man's figure, tall and slender. To Mr Satterthwaite, watching, he appeared by some curious effect of the stained glass above the door, to be dressed in every colour of the rainbow. Then, as he stepped forward, he showed himself to be a thin dark man dressed in motoring clothes."
Later in the same story, the mask effect is described thus:
- "Mr Quin acknowledged the introductions, and dropped into the chair that Evesham had hospitably pulled forward. As he sat, some effect of the firelight threw a bar of shadow across his face which gave almost the impression of a mask."
In The Shadow on the Glass, the literary effect is repeated as follows:
- "Mr Quin sat down. The red‐shaded lamp threw a broad band of coloured light over the checked pattern of his overcoat, and left his face in shadow almost as though he wore a mask."
In The Sign in the Sky, the description is:
- "[The table] was already occupied by a tall dark man who sat with his face in shadow, and with a play of colour from a stained window turning his sober garb into a kind of riotous motley."
The Soul of the Croupier ends with the sentence, "Mr Quin smiled, and a stained glass panel behind him invested him for just a moment in a motley garment of coloured light..."
In The Bird with the Broken Wing, Mabelle Annesley says,
- "I was out in the woods late this afternoon, and I met a man – such a strange sort of man – tall and dark, like a lost soul. The sun was setting, and the light of it through the trees made him look like a kind of Harlequin."
- In The Shadow on the Glass, Captain Allenson states that Mr and Mrs Scott are "doing the turtle dove stunt", thereby referring to the bird as a symbol of love. The name of house in the story – Greenway's House – is possibly derived from the name of Christie's future home, Greenway House, on the banks on the River Dart in Devon. Although Christie did not purchase the house until 1938, she had been aware of its existence since childhood.
- The Arlecchino restaurant features in both The Sign in the Sky and The Face of Helen as a place where Quin states he often goes. The word "Arlecchino" is Italian for "Harlequin".
- In The Face of Helen, Quin states that there are reasons why he is attracted to the opera Pagliacci. This opera (whose name translates in Italian as "Clowns") depicts a group of performers of the Commedia dell'arte in which Harlequin is one of the chief characters. The opera is also referenced in Swan Song, the final story in the 1934 collection The Listerdale Mystery.
- In The Bird with the Broken Wing, one of the songs that Mabelle Annesley plays and sings is The Swan by Edvard Grieg (En Svane from Op. 25 [No. 2] Six poems by Henrik Ibsen).
- In Harlequin's Lane, the lyrics of the "old Irish ballad" that Molly Stanwell sings are in fact from Christie's own poem Dark Sheila, first printed in the Poetry Today issue for May/June 1919 and later reprinted in her collections The Road of Dreams (1925) and Poems (1973).
References to actual history, geography and current science
In The Dead Harlequin, the character of Aspasia Glen is an early attempt by Christie to portray the acclaimed American monologist Ruth Draper (1884–1956). She re-used and enlarged upon the idea in her 1933 novel Lord Edgware Dies with the character of Carlotta Adams.
The story The Man from the Sea was actually written in Puerto de la Cruz in the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. The Villa La Paz still exists, and is one of the heritage-listed buildings in the town. Unluckily, the "cypresses walk" has been detached from the garden by a new road, but there are still commanding and impressive views of the ocean and the cliff.
References in other works
The Coming of Mr Quin, the first short story in the Anthology, would be adapted into film as The Passing of Mr. Quinn in 1928, directed by Julius Hagen and Leslie S. Hiscott and adapted by Hiscott. The cast included:
- Stewart Rome ... Dr Alec Portal
- Trilby Clark ... Mrs Eleanor Appleby
- Ursula Jeans ... Vera, the Maid
- Clifford Heatherley ... Professor Appleby
- Mary Brough ... Cook
- Vivian Baron ... Derek Cappel
- Kate Gurney ... Landlady
The film, in turn, was "novelized" as The Passing of Mr. Quinn by G. Roy McRae (London Book Company, 1929). Actor Hugh Fraser was the reader of the unabridged recording of The Mysterious Mr Quin released in 2006 by BBC Audiobooks America (ISBN 978-1572705296) and HarperCollins in 2005 (ISBN 978-0007189717) and 2007 (ISBN 978-0007212583). ISIS Audio Books released an unabridged recording in 1993 read by Geoffrey Matthews (ISBN 978-1856956758).
A series of abridged readings of three of the stories ("The Coming of Mr Quin", "The Soul of the Croupier", "At the 'Bells and Motley'") were broadcast 15–17 September 2009 on BBC Radio 4 as part of the Afternoon Readings program and performed by Martin Jarvis. A second series of abridged readings ("The World's End", "The Face of Helen", "The Sign in the Sky") was broadcast 15–17 September 2010 on BBC Radio 4 and again performed by Martin Jarvis. A third set ("The Dead Harlequin", "The Man from the Sea", "Harlequin's Lane") was broadcast 6–8 September 2011 on BBC Radio 4 and again performed by Martin Jarvis. The readings have since been rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra.
- 1930, William Collins and Sons (London), 14 April 1930, Hardcover, 288 pp
- 1930, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1930, Hardcover, 290 pp
- c. 1930, Lawrence E. Spivak, Abridged edition, 126 pp
- 1943, Dodd Mead and Company, (as part of the Triple Threat along with Poirot Investigates and Partners in Crime), Hardcover
- 1950, Dell Books (New York), Paperback, (Dell number 570 [mapback]), 256 pp
- 1953, Penguin Books, Paperback, (Penguin number 931), 250 pp
- 1965, Fontana Books (Imprint of HarperCollins), Paperback, 255 pp
- 1973, Pan Books, Paperback, 256 pp; ISBN 0-330-23457-9
- 1977, Ulverscroft large-print Edition, Hardcover, 457 pp; ISBN 0-85456-546-9
- 1984, Berkley Books, Paperback, 246 pp; Berkley number 06795-5
- 2010, HarperCollins; Facsimile edition, Hardcover: 288 pages; ISBN 978-0-00-735464-1
Chapters from the book appeared in Agatha Christie's Crime Reader, published by Cleveland Publishing in 1944, along with other selections from Poirot Investigates and Partners in Crime.
First publication of stories
The first UK magazine publication of all the stories has not been fully documented. A partial listing is as follows:
- The Coming of Mr Quin: First published as The Passing of Mr Quin in issue 229 of the Grand Magazine in March 1924.
- The Shadow on the Glass: First published in issue 236 of the Grand Magazine in October 1924.
- The Sign in the Sky: First published under the slightly different title of A Sign in the Sky in issue 245 of the Grand Magazine in July 1925.
- At the Bells and Motley: First published as A Man of Magic in issue 249 of the Grand Magazine in November 1925.
- The Soul of the Croupier: First published in issue 237 of The Story-Teller magazine in January 1927.
- The World's End: First published under the slightly abbreviated title of World's End in issue 238 of The Story-Teller Magazine in February 1927
- The Voice in the Dark: First published in issue 239 of The Story-Teller magazine in March 1927.
- The Face of Helen: First published in issue 240 of The Story-Teller magazine in April 1927.
- Harlequin's Lane: First published in issue 241 of The Story-Teller magazine in May 1927.
- The Man From the Sea: First published in volume 1, number 6 of Britannia and Eve magazine in October 1929. The story was illustrated by Steven Spurrier.
The five stories in The Story-teller magazine above were part of a six-story sequence titled The Magic of Mr Quin. The sixth story in the sequence (and the first to be published) was At the Crossroads in issue 236 in December 1926. Retitled The Love Detectives, the story appeared in book form in the US in 1950 in Three Blind Mice and Other Stories and in the UK in Problem at Pollensa Bay and Other Stories in 1991.
No UK magazine printing of either The Dead Harlequin or The Bird with the Broken Wing has yet been traced. A partial listing of the first US magazine publications is as follows:
- The Coming of Mr Quin: March 1925 (Volume LXXXIV, Number 2) issue of Muncey magazine under the title Mr Quinn Passes By; the story was not illustrated.
- At the Bells and Motley: 17 July 1926 (Volume XVI, Number 6) issue of Flynn's Weekly with an uncredited illustration.
- The Soul of the Croupier: 13 November 1926 (Volume XIX, Number 5) issue of Flynn's Weekly with an uncredited illustration.
- The World's End: 20 November 1926 (Volume XIX, Number 6) issue of Flynn's Weekly with an uncredited illustration.
- The Voice in the Dark: 4 December 1926 (Volume XX, Number 1) issue of Flynn's Weekly with an uncredited illustration.
- The Face of Helen: 6 August 1927 issue of Detective Story Magazine.
- The Dead Harlequin: 22 June 1929 (Volume 42, Number 3) issue of Detective Fiction Weekly with an uncredited illustration.
Christie's dedication in the book reads: "To Harlequin the invisible". This dedication is unusual for two reasons; first, few of her short story collections carried a dedication and, second, it is the only time that Christie dedicated a book to one of her fictional creations.
Mr Satterthwaite is a dried-up elderly little man who has never known romance or adventure himself. He is a looker-on at life. But he feels an increasing desire to play a part in the drama of other people – especially is he drawn to mysteries of unsolved crime. And here he has a helper – the mysterious Mr Quin – the man who appears from nowhere – who 'comes and goes' like the invisible Harlequin of old. Who is Mr Quin? No one knows, but he is one who 'speaks for the dead who cannot speak for themselves', and he is also a friend to lovers. Prompted by his mystic influence, Mr Satterthwaite plays a real part in life at last, and unravels mysteries that seem incapable of solution. In Mr Quin, Agatha Christie has created a character as fascinating as Hercule Poirot himself.
- German: Der seltsame Mister Quin (The Odd Mr Quin)
Die Ankunft des Mr. Quin (The Arrival of Mr. Quin)
Der Kavalier am Fenster (The Gentleman at the Window)
Der Zaubertrick (The Legerdemain)
Das Zeichen am Himmel (The Sign in the Sky)
Die Seele des Croupiers (The Soul of the Croupier)
Das Ende der Welt (The End of the World)
Die Stimme aus dem Dunkeln (The Voice out of the Dark)
Das schöne Gesicht (The Beautiful Face)
Der tote Harlekin (The Dead Harlequin)
Der Vogel mit dem gebrochenen Flügel (The Bird with the Broken Wing)
Der Mann im Meer (The Man in the Sea)
Die Straße des Harlekins (The Street of the Harlequin)
- Norwegian: De dødes advokat (The Advocate for the Dead Ones)
- The Observer, 13 April 1930, p. 9
- John Cooper and B.A. Pyke. Detective Fiction – the collector's guide: Second Edition (pp. 82, 87) Scholar Press. 1994; ISBN 0-85967-991-8
- American Tribute to Agatha Christie.
- The English Catalogue of Books. Vol XII (A-L: January 1926 – December 1930). Kraus Reprint Corporation, Millwood, New York, 1979 (p. 316)
- The Times Literary Supplement, 29 May 1930 (p. 461)
- The New York Times Book Review, 4 May 1930 (p. 25)
- Daily Express, 25 April 1930 (p. 8)
- Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie – Revised edition (p. 200). Fontana Books, 1990; ISBN 0-00-637474-3
- Christie, Agatha. An Autobiography. (p. 437). Collins, 1977; ISBN 0-00-216012-9.
- The Mysterious Mr Quin at the official Agatha Christie website
- The Passing of Mr Quin at IMDb
- Agatha Christie's Mysterious Mr Quin on BBC Radio 4's "Afternoon Reading"