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The Harlequin Tea Set

Page history last edited by Jon 14 years ago

Christie, Agatha - The Harlequin Tea Set (1997)


The Harlequin Tea Set is a short story collection by Agatha Christie. It collects a group of diverse tales that didn't make it into any of the collections published while she was alive.


"The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" is an expansion to novella length, of the earlier "The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest". It adheres to the same fine mystery plot, with a slight addition of a look at the origin of the weapon. But it turns the briefly sketched people into real characters. The novella is a considerable improvement over the original. It now seems to have real storytelling and well-drawn people, as well as the skilfully constructed plot.

The title tale, "The Harlequin Tea Set" (1971) is a late attempt to revive Mr. Harley Quin. The early sections, in which Mr. Satterthwaite rediscovers his friend Mr. Quin, have charm. But the mystery that follows is fairly muddled. It is a variation on ideas used in the Miss Marple story "The Companion" and the Parker Pyne "The House at Shiraz".


"Manx Gold" is one of Christie's tales of a hidden treasure. It is the most elaborate and charming of such works, and served as the basis of a real-life treasure hunt. This was staged for the tourist trade of the Isle of Man in 1930. The story is annotated by mystery expert Tony Medawar.


The collection contains six mainstream tales. Most are grim, and not very interesting. The best is also the most cheerful, "The Lonely God". Plot ideas in this romantic tale anticipate "The Arcadian Deer" in The Labors of Hercules.


Mike Grost

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