“The trouble is that we are not content just to see things—we will tack the wrong interpretation onto the things we see.” – The Mysterious Mr. Quin
Another Cannonballer recently reviewed this book, and it prompted me to read it again. The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie is a bit of an anomaly in her oeuvre. Mr. Quin is a mysterious character with almost supernatural abilities to come and go. Mr. Satterthwaite, the book’s third person narrator and an inveterate scholar of the human condition, meets Mr. Quin repeatedly in this collection of short stories. Each story involves some sort of mystery to be solved, and Mr. Quin always seems to show up as part of the proceedings. He is not a catalyst as much as an illuminator of facts that have always been there. Every time Mr. Quin shows up, he gently nudges Mr. Satterthwaite to reevaluation what he already know. In each case Mr. Satterthwaite teases out the truth by reexamining the conversations, people, and circumstances surrounding the mystery. As Mr. Satterthwaite says about Mr. Quin, “He has a power—an almost uncanny power—of showing you what you have seen with your own eyes, of making clear to you what you have heard with your own ears.”
Mr. Quin’s first name is Harley, which summons the image of the commedia dell’arte’s Harlequin. Harelequin is traditionally a mute trickster, and Christie’s Mr. Quin speaks very little. His presence indicates that something is not what it seems. He encourages Mr. Satterthwaite to dig deeper to solve the book’s mysteries.
While The Mysterious Mr. Quin has some of the hallmarks of Christie’s typical mysteries, Mr. Quin’s presence is more otherworldly than realistic. The book reminded me a bit of Christie’s Parker Pyne Investigates. The main character, Mr. Pyne, is a similarly mysterious, almost omniscient character. He does not have a supernatural aura like Mr. Quin, but his motives are similarly obscured.
In general I like Christie’s short stories and I enjoyed this book upon rereading it. It’s nothing terribly deep, but it’s a good diversion.