Thursday, 17 April 2014

Review: The Mysterious Mr Quin....

As I think I may have mentioned in earlier posts, I've never taken the time to sit down and read any of the enormous canon of Agatha Christie's writings, in spite of my avid reading habits, I was merely content to enjoy immensely the TV dramatisations over the last twenty or so years.

With the TV demise of Poirot recently, I finally made the effort to read one, The Mysterious Mr Quin, a series of short stories that revolve around a Mr Satterthwaite, (a rather dapper old gentleman of the upper-middle-classses much loved as a Christie social type) and his elusive (and indeed mysterious) friend, indicated in the title.

The world Mr Satterthwaite occupies is one that will be familiar to anyone who has watched the TV versions of Poirot, or fans of the popular show, Downton Abbey. A creature of the 1930's social scene so often depicted with romanticism in more modern times, he is a man who has lived life as a spectator, (in his own opinion) never playing a role in the dramas that have gone on around him, a rather stylish piece of scenery in the lives of others. As an old man he begins to regret this turn of events, and his interest in the lives of others (he is an incredibly knowledgeable person in the affairs of others...) changes direction when he is be-friended by Mr Quin. By some indefinable method, Mr Quin seems to be able, without direct interference on his own part, to draw out the skills for observation deep within Mr Satterthwaithe's own mind. This leads Mr Satterthwaite to step out of the shadows and play a crucial role in events of great import to those around him. He becomes something of a sleuth and all-round problem solver, as his friend prompts and nudges him in the right direction, before disappearing as each incident or affair is settled.

There are strong elements of Poirot in the Satterthwaite character for me, his fastidiousness, his habit of being an observer of life around him at a much greater depth than others, his role as something of an avuncular. I throughly enjoyed the book, in spite of a slightly supernatural undertone which would, in the past have put me off somewhat. The 'mise en scene' that Christie creates is wonderful. In spite of my reading a good deal about the darker side of the 1930's, I could not help but be dragged into a world of dressing for dinner, bright young things, Cannes, Monte Carlo, cocktails, cigarettes in ivory holders, masters and servants.
This was a wonderful introduction to Christie's work and I can't wait to move on to the next one!