Agatha Christie’s 1930 book The Mysterious Mr. Quin is one of her best kept secrets; it is perhaps the least well known of her early texts and certainly one which has received scant critical attention. This is a pity, because while Christie’s writing has frequently been portrayed as possessing excellent plotting but set within a flat, matter-of-fact style, The Mysterious Mr. Quin, on the other ... [Show full abstract] hand, contains some of her finest prose and acute observation of the art of detection and its relationship with human nature. In ‘The Man from the Sea’, for instance, Mr. Satterthwaite, the book’s principal protagonist, reflects as he tries to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the lonely Signora. He presses her on her unhappy marriage:
He felt himself groping — groping — in the dark recesses of her mind where she was trying to hide her secret from him.
‘The boy — it’s got to do with him. You wouldn’t mind about anything else.’
He heard the faint gasp she gave and he knew he had probed correctly. A cruel business but necessary. It was her will against his. She had got a dominant, ruthless will, but he, too, had a will hidden beneath his meek manner. And he had behind him the heaven-sent assurance of a man who is doing his proper job. He felt a passing contemptuous pity for men whose business it was to track down such crudities as crime. This detective business of the mind, this assembling of clues, this delving for the truth, this wild joy as one drew nearer the goal...Her very passion to keep the truth from him helped him. He felt her stiffen defiantly as he drew nearer and nearer.2