Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Mysterious Mr. Quin: "A Problem is not Necessarily Unsolvable Because it has Remained Unsolved."

Melancholy (1894)
Edvard Munich
Agatha Christie Book Challenge:
Book 11

I've just finished my eleventh Agatha Christie book, and I haven't even got to the first Miss Marple novel! It's 1930, and Christie is now world famous. In addition, news about her bizarre disappearance in 1926 and her well-publicized divorce from philandering Archie Christie have added to her mystique. Christie's sensational novel, The Murder of Rodger Ackroyd has sparked controversy, and she's on the verge of writing some of her most acclaimed novels: Murder on the Orient Express (1934), And Then There Were None (1939), Death on the Nile (1935), and Murder in the Vicarage (1930). 

The Mysterious Mr. Quin marks a turning point in Christie's career. It's a real departure from the usual Christie, and it reveals a maturity and complexity that one doesn't usually associate with her work. This collection of twelve short stories has a melancholy feel that is vaguely unsettling and uncharacteristically sinister. The stories are part mystery, part supernatural, and part fantasy. 

All the stories feature Mr. Satterthwaite, an elderly gentleman that observes life from afar, a man who knows about the complexities of life and love but has never participated in them. Mr. Satterthwaite is haunted not only by his unrealized sense of regret, but also by the mysterious Harley Quin, a shadowy figure that suddenly appears and disappears in each story. It's Mr. Quin that nudges Mr. Satterthwaite toward solving the "unsolvable."  

There is more than meets the eye in this book. Each story is intriguing and personal. Christie reveals a lot about herself, showing the depth of her mind and even some of the hurtful events in her life. Perhaps, in reference to her failed first marriage, she writes, "For ten years I have lived with a man I love. Now I am going to the man who for ten years have love me."

I highly recommend this collection of beguiling and unusual stories. 


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