Harley Quin

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Mr Quin, Agatha Christie's favourite character. Mysterious, elusive, appearing suddenly in a flash of lights and colours, he 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

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). She even dedicated his own book, The Mysterious Mr Quin, to its eponymous hero. 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 ...

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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). She even dedicated his own book, The Mysterious Mr Quin, to its eponymous hero. 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.

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.

Agatha Christie had always admired the Commedia dell’ arte and wrote many poems on it in her youth, most of which featured Harlequin, her favourite. Mr Satterthwaite too 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. He even features in the Poirot novel Three Act Tragedy, the plot of which involves the theatre.

It was a short story that was first adapted for screen; The Coming of Mr Quin become 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.

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

5 Harley Quin facts

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

    2. Harley Quin and Mr Satterthwaite are among Agatha Christie's only recurring detectives not to have appeared on TV.

    3. The 1928 film The Passing of Mr Quinn was intended to be a series, but wasn't well received. This fuelled Agatha Christie's dislike of adaptations.

    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.


Stories featuring Harley Quin

TM Mr Quin SC BJ UK PB

A man disappeared from a house in the village of Kirklington Mallet, leaving his wife and all their possessions. Satterthwaite and Quin talk through the details of the myst...

Supernatural
TM Mr Quin SC BJ UK PB

Is it only a coincidence that Mr Satterthwaite is staying with the dull Denman's when he comes across a road called Harlequin's Lane? From The Mysterious Mr Quin.

Supernatural