Harley Quin

Mysterious, elusive, appearing suddenly in a flash of lights and colours, Mr Quin is a friend of lovers and is always associated with death. He assists Mr Satterthwaite with various mysteries, gently guiding him towards a solution with an almost supernatural instinct.

There would be some little fact, some apparently irrelevant phrase, to point him out for what he was: a man shown in a harlequin-coloured light that fell on him through a glass window...

Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

About Harley Quin

Quin and Satterthwaite

Along with his "emissary" Mr Satterthwaite, Harley Quin was Agatha Christie’s favourite character (not least because she only wrote stories about him when she wanted to). Based on the Harlequin of the Commedia dell’ arte, Mr Quin helps his friend Satterthwaite to solve crimes using his extraordinary skills and almost mystical instincts.

Mr Satterthwaite, a “dried-up man with a peering face oddly elflike”, first meets Mr Quin on New Year’s Eve in the short story collection The Mysterious Mr Quin, 1930, and both gentleman are immediately intrigued. Satterthwaite has, as Christie puts it, “an intense and inordinate interest in other people’s lives” and Quin provides just the right level of insight to reveal something new about each person they encounter. Perhaps the most unconventional of Agatha Christie's detectives, his investigative style involves posing poignant questions to Mr Satterthwaite. Once answered, these questions help Mr Satterthwaite view the situation in a new light, through the ever perceptive eyes of his ethereal companion.

Christie’s husband Max Mallowan wrote in his memoirs that the Harley Quin stories were "a natural product of Agatha’s peculiar imagination."

Supernatural

With his supernatural foresight, Quin leads Satterthwaite as he untangles dramas, love affairs and occasionally murders. Quin is a catalyst in any given situation, a friend of lovers, he seeks to right wrongs and incite peace, however he is always connected with death.

As we move through the series of short stories, Mr Quin’s physical form becomes more and more unclear, until the reader questions whether he exists independently of Satterthwaite, or is in fact a representation of a hidden part of Satterthwaite’s personality.

Adaptations

The short story The Coming of Mr Quin became a film in 1928, starring Stewart Rome. It was retitled The Passing of Mr Quinn, a title which was also used for the "novelised" version of the story, written by G. Roy McRae and published by the London Book Company in 1929. Christie was never really satisfied with the portrayal of her character and no other screen adaptations have since been made.

Hugh Fraser (known for his role as Hastings in the Poirot TV series) voiced the audiobook of The Mysterious Mr Quin in 2006, and a selection of these stories were performed by Martin Jarvis for BBC Radio 4 between 2009 and 2011.

In 2015 a brand new digital drama, Mr Quin, was created based on Agatha Christie's characters Quin and Satterthwaite. This contemporary adaptation was based on the first story in The Mysterious Mr Quin short story collection, The Coming of Mr Quin. It was first available as an app and featured Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones, Aquarius) as Mr Satterthwaite.

Featured Harley Quin stories

The Mysterious Mr Quin
Harley Quin
The Coming of Mr Quin
Harley Quin
The Shadow on the Glass
Harley Quin

Did you know?

  1. The Mysterious Mr Quin is the only work of Agatha Christie's to be dedicated to a fictional character.

  2. Mr Satterthwaite enjoyed a certain favouritism from his author, who frequently used him to voice her knowledge of the arts, particularly opera, for which they both shared a great love.

  3. Satterthwaite even features in the Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy, the plot of which involves the theatre.

  4. "Harlequin's Song" is one of several poems Agatha Christie wrote on the Commedia dell'arte.

  5. The Harlequin character features as a costume in the Poirot short story The Affair at the Victory Ball.