The Mysterious Mr Quin is a short story collection by British writer 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.
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 Agatha Christie’s Autobiography, she claims that Quin and Satterthwaite became two of her favourite characters. The latter appeared in the 1935 novel, Three Act Tragedy, and very briefly in the short story Dead Man’s Mirror, a 1937 collection of four short stories. 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.
- 1930, William Collins and Sons (London), 14 April 1930, Hardcover, 288 pp
- 1930, Dodd Mead and Company (New York), 1930, Hardcover, 290 pp
- ca. 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; ISBN0-330-23457-9
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 Dead Harlequin: First published in issue 289 of the Grand Magazine in March 1929.
- 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. The story was published in the US in Flynn’s Weekly in October 1926 (Volume XIX, Number 3). 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 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 Munsey’s 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.
- Harlequin’s Lane: 27 August 1927 (Volume XXVI, Number 4) issue of Flynn’s Weekly.
- The Dead Harlequin: 22 June 1929 (Volume 42, Number 3) issue of Detective Fiction Weekly with an uncredited illustration.
Mysterious Mr. Quin – First Edition Book Identification Guide
The books are listed in the order of publication. While the majority of Agatha Christie’s books were first published in the UK. There are many titles that were first published in the US. The title of the book may differs from the UK edition in some cases.
|Year||Title||Publisher||First edition/printing identification points|
|1930||Mysrterious Mr. Quin||William Collins & Sons, London, ||First edition. "Copyright, 1930" stated on the copyright page. No statement of later printings. Black cloth lettered in orange. Price 7/6.|
|1930||Mysrterious Mr. Quin||Dodd, Mead & Co, NY, MCMXXX||First American edition. Date on the title & copyright page matches. No statement of later printings. Pink cloth lettered in black. Price $ 2.00.|
Note about Book Club Editions (BCE) and reprints:
UK: You can see statements of later reprint dates or of book club on the copyright page.
US: The US reprint publishers usually use the same sheets as the first edition and are harder to identify by looking at the title page or the copyright page. One may identify a BCE by looking at the DJ, which doesn’t have a price on top of the front flap and a “Book Club Edition” imprint at the bottom. If the dust jacked is clipped at both the top/bottom of the front flap. You can safely assume it’s a BCE . If the book is missing the dust jacket. Later BCE editions can be identified by its plain boards, while first printings are issued in quarter cloth.
Please refer to the gallery for detailed images of true first edition bindings and dust jackets.
Mysterious Mr. Quin – First Edition Dust Jacket Identification Guide
First edition bindings and various dust jacket printings identification.