on 25 January 2007
Agatha Christie always sighted the Mr Quin and Mr Statterthwaite stories as her favourites and returned to them simply out of love for the characters. Christie moved away from her usual motifs into the world of the apparantly supernatural with these titles.
Mr Statterthwaite inhabits the upper class world of the 1930's, imagine Counts and Countesses, caviar, Monaco, casinos, Country Houses, art galleries and round the world cruises.
He watches rather than plays a part in the lives of the people that he sees played out before his eyes but often meets the mysterious Mr Harley Quin when he leasts expects to. These meetings invariably lead to an 'approaching storm' that lends itself to Statterthwaite helping to right wrongs that have been perpertrated.
An amazing book of the most delicious short stories that have two brilliantly conceived characters 'solving' problems and mysteries borne out around them.
It is such a shame that she didn't wrote more of these stories.
Special mention to the story 'At the Bells and Motley'. A set-up that holds it's own against the best locked room mystery stories.
on 20 April 2002
This book contains most, but not all, of the adventures of Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Quin. (See my listmania list on amazon.com for a complete list). Mr. Satterthwaite is an elderly bachelor whom life has passed by - a spectator in other people's lives - but like Miss Marple, he's grown very perceptive.
Mr. Quin - Mr. Harley Quin - is a vaguely supernatural figure, associated with the immortal Harlequin, whose appearance in Satterthwaite's life presages adventure. Generally he appears as an advocate for the dead, and always as a catalyst: Satterthwaite does most of the reasoning, prompted by Quin. His theory is that one is more likely to solve a mystery after enough time has elapsed to put events in perspective. His gift for inspiring Satterthwaite lies in guiding him to ask the right questions.
"The Coming of Mr. Quin" - Mr. Quin appears after midnight on New Year's Eve, speaking of a breakdown that his chauffeur will shortly put right; Satterthwaite is among the guests of the house party who have stayed up. Quin guides the conversation to the mysterious suicide of Derek Capel, which happened 10 years ago in the same house. He contradicts the theory that nobody will ever know why Capel did it.
"The Shadow on the Glass" - If Satterthwaite consents to stay in a new-money household (he's a snob), it's a sign that the cooking is very good, or that something interesting will happen. He's currently staying with the Unkertons, who have bought a house with a romantic ghost story - a haunted window - and who have a genius for inviting trouble. In this case, they've invited a group of empire-builder-type hunters: Iris Staverton, Richard Scott and his new bride, and Scott's best-friend, who's been second fiddle all his life. Tactless, since Iris and Richard once had a very public relationship.
"At the Bells and Motley" - When the 3rd flat tire of the day strands Satterthwaite and his chauffeur 40 miles from their destination, the chauffeur soothes his employer's ruffled temper by suggesting that he go to the nearby inn - the Bells and Motley - to telephone his host, get something to eat, and maybe stay the night. Satterthwaite cheers up considerably to find Quin as a fellow-guest, and to be reminded that this little town was recently the scene of a nine-days wonder: a newlywed man, with a rich, lovely young wife, who mysteriously vanished.
"The Sign in the Sky" - Satterthwaite, having just seen young Martin Wylde convicted of the murder of Vivien Barnaby (a married woman he was leaving upon his engagement), and suspecting that he's innocent, seeks out a favourite restaurant, catering to jaded gourmets: the Arlecchino. Where, of course, he joins Mr. Quin at table to discuss the case.
"The Soul of the Croupier" - Satterthwaite, on his annual trip to Monte Carlo, notes that few of the glamourous nobility attend anymore - except the Countess Czarnova, and even she is seen less with great men these days than the nouveau riche.
"The World's End" - Satterthwaite's snobbery works against him here: the Duchess of Leith (one of those wealthy people who still clip coupons), complaining about her hotel bill, persuades him to accompany her to Corsica rather than the comforts of the Riviera.
"The Voice in the Dark" - Lady Stranleigh represents the triumph of Art over Nature - she's been married four times, has a grown daughter, and is a contemporary of Satterthwaite's, but maintains the illusion of a youthful appearance. Her daughter Margery is almost a cuckoo's egg - very practical and conventional. Then Lady Stranleigh seems to show signs of occasional bouts of 'food poisoning'...who is acting a part for whom?
"The Face of Helen" - Satterthwaite encounters a woman with the calamitous magic of the great beauties of history - but the outlook of a respectable middle-class girl. (Christie has employed variations on this kind of character several times: Elsie Holland in _The Moving Finger_ and Mrs. Liedner in _Murder in Mesopotamia_, to name two extremes.)
"The Dead Harlequin" - Satterthwaite sees a beautiful painting at an exhibition of a young artist's work, in which a dead Harlequin lies on the floor of the Terrace at Charnley, which Satterthwaite knows well, and a living one looks in at the window. He buys it and invites the painter to dinner - and not only does the talk turn to a mysterious suicide that occurred at Charnley years ago, but two women ring up, asking to buy the painting from Satterthwaite.
"The Bird with the Broken Wing" - One of Satterthwaite's fellow guests at the house party at Laidell is Mabelle Annesley - who was born a Clydesley, noted as being a family that disaster has struck again and again: one sibling committed suicide, another drowned, and still another died in an earthquake. Is someone trying to make a clean sweep?
"The Man from the Sea" - Satterthwaite, visiting a new place rather than the Riviera, meets a man who seems young, to him: Anthony Cosdon, approaching 50, a bachelor who has lived a careless but contented life - and whose doctor has delivered his death sentence. But Satterthwaite and Quin aren't inclined to let him take his own life, because, of course, there's something Cosdon hasn't thought of...
"Harlequin's Lane" - Satterthwaite stays with the Denmans every now and again, even though they seem to be very dull Philistines, because nevertheless something about them puzzles him very much. Then Satterthwaite finds that Quin is a fellow guest...
on 8 September 2009
This tape was a great listen. I had to buy a tape player to learn a language that I had been given the tapes of, so decided to treat myself to a tape of stories. I really enjoy reading Agatha Christie, so the obvious choice was one of her stories, and this was a really great choice.
I am on the lookout for more of Agatha Christie's stories on tape, but they are not easy to find since everyone has gone over to CDs, but I am not going to give up. I will be scouring the charity shops for tapes, as they may get some in, although the ones I have tried so far say that they just put tapes in the bin now - what a waste!
If you want a good story and still have a tape player, I would thoroughly recommend this one.
on 25 March 2013
An interesting set of short stories, with similar themes. I wondered how many of them were written around the time of Christie's disappearance and breakdown of her first marriage given that there are some unhappy, suicidal, women to be found here. Each of the stories is 'out of joint' somehow - there's something queasy-making about them all, as if the walls aren't plumb. They're not as entirely grim as I seem to have made out here - after all, these are 'entertainments' and, having been written by Christie, it's very easy to keep turning the pages. Worth a read.