The Fantastic Mr. Quin
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
“Framed in the doorway stood a man’s figure, tall and slender…he appeared by some curious effect of the stained glass window 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. ‘I must really apologise for this intrusion,’ said the stranger, in a pleasant level voice.” Agatha Christie and the great detective Hercule Poirot are infamous names in the world of mystery and fiction.
Today, let’s step away from her many works with the great detective and speak about one of Christie’s other characters, the enigmatic Mr. Quin. All wrapped up in a neat paperback, The Mysterious Mr. Quin is an anthology of sorts with a collection of short stories, always with the enigmatic Mr. Quin making a star appearance. Although not always in the most fantastical of situations, we meet Mr. Quin, oftentimes joined with Mr. Satterthwaite, a wonderful English gentleman who seem to find themselves faced with a myriad of mysterious instances.
Often the story begins with Mr. Satterthwaite, who stumbles upon a mystery. Then enters Mr. Quin who always seems to find the correct answer, much to the amazement of the people around him, and the reader. In her own words, Agatha Christie admits that the Mr. Quin stories were never meant to be read as a series.
Each story often a concoction of her time spent in between writing more complex and demanding mystery novels no doubt. Yet each time I read a story out of Mr. Quin, I can’t help but notice the tenderness Christie has towards the character.
“A set of Dresden figures on my mother’s mantelpiece fascinated me as a child and afterwards. They represented the Italian commedia dell’arte: Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot, Pierrette, Punchinello and Punchinella,” she wrote in the forward of her book. “As a girl I wrote a series of poetry about them, and I rather think that one of the poems, Harlequin’s Song was my first appearance in print.
It was in the Poetry Review, and I got a guinea for it!” British currency from prize money aside, as Christie’s work turned from poetry to ghost stories and then to crime, Harlequin has apparently once again made himself known with a more elemental feel than that of the infamous Poirot. Although The Mysterious Mr. Quin doesn’t house the more complex of Agatha Christie’s mysteries, it is clear with each paragraph, that a lot of heart has been added by the author herself to fill in that void.
Somehow, how close Mr. Quin is to Christie’s heart shines clearer than the midday sun as you read this wonderful work by the legendary author. If you haven’t read about The Mysterious Mr. Quin, I highly recommend that you do.