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Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Mr Quin, first published in April 1930, included 11 short stories that had appeared in various British and American magazines between March 1924 and October 1929. However, it omitted one previously published story featuring Mr Quin: "At the Crossroads." This story had made its appearance in October 1926 in Flynn's Weekly, an American periodical. In December of the same year, the story was the first of six that appeared in successive issues of the British magazine The Story-Teller. The series had the overall title "The Magic of Mr Quin." This was the only Mr Quin story that had already appeared in magazine form to be left out of The Mysterious Mr Quin. In its place, a previously unpublished story, "The Bird with the Broken Wing," was added to make up a round dozen.

"At the Crossroads"/"The Magic of Mr Quin 1" did not appear in book form until 1950, as part of the US collection Three Blind Mice and Other Stories. It was given a new title, "The Love Detectives." Under this new title, it formed part of the 1991 UK collection Problem at Pollensa Bay. Christie died in 1976, which means that the story was never reprinted in the UK in Christie's lifetime. "The Love Detectives" is one of two Mr Quin stories that are not in the 1930 collection. The other, "The Harlequin Tea Set," was written for Winter's Crimes 3, a 1971 anthology edited by George Harding. The cover of that volume says "All these stories are new," which indicates that "The Harlequin Tea Set" had not yet been written when The Mysterious Mr Quin was first published. This makes it a different case altogether from "The Love Detectives."

What is the reason for the omission of "At the Crossroads" / "The Magic of Mr Quin 1" / "The Love Detectives" from The Mysterious Mr Quin? Why was the story left uncollected for 20 years in the US, and more than sixty in the UK?

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Spoiler alert

This answer contains spoilers for both "The Love Detectives" and The Murder at the Vicarage.

tl;dr

Because Christie had recycled the chief plot device of "At the Crossroads" / "The Magic of Mr Quin 1" / "The Love Detectives" for the first full-length Jane Marple mystery, The Murder at the Vicarage. This novel was due to be published in October of 1930, a scant six months after The Mysterious Mr Quin. Had the story been included in the collection, readers would have readily recognized the device when the novel came out within the same year, leaving The Murder at the Vicarage open to the justified charge of a lack of originality.

Deets (including spoilers)

In "At the Crossroads," Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin are investigating the murder of Sir James Dwighton. He has been coshed. Dwighton's wife Laura is having an affair with Paul Delangua. Both Laura and Paul confess to the murder. Laura claims to have stabbed Sir James, Paul to have shot him. The police, and initially Mr Satterthwaite, believe that this clears the lovers, with each having confessed in the belief that the other was the true culprit. Pointed questions from Mr Quin cause Mr Satterthwaite to realize that in fact Laura and Paul have committed the murder together, and that the false confessions were just a ruse to throw the police off the track.

Similarly, in The Murder at the Vicarage, Colonel Lucius Protheroe's wife Anne is involved with a local artist, Lawrence Redding. When the colonel is shot, each confesses to the murder. But Lucius could not have been shot at the time that Lawrence claims, and Anne could not have had the murder weapon on her person. The police therefore assume that each is confessing in the belief that the other is the true culprit. Only Miss Marple realizes the truth and correctly fingers the amorous couple as the murderers.

The plot device of a pair of adulterous lovers conspiring to commit a murder, and each furnishing a provably false confession, thereby leading the police to think that the couple is guilty only of adultery and not of homicide, and to dismiss them as suspects, is thus common to both "The Love Detectives" and The Murder at the Vicarage. Since the novel was due for publication only a few months after The Mysterious Mr Quin, including "The Love Detectives" in that collection would have meant that readers could have remembered the story and recognized the confessions of Anne and Lawrence as a smokescreen. This would have revealed the outcome of the mystery in a major way.

Christie, her agents, and/or her publishers therefore chose to leave "At the Crossroads" / "The Magic of Mr Quin 1" / "The Love Detectives" out of The Mysterious Mr Quin. It was worth gambling that few enough people would have read the short story in its initial appearances, and fewer would remember it clearly enough four years later. However, putting "The Love Detectives" in a collection in April 1930 with the novel due to appear only six months later would have been too risky. It would have given away the plot of The Murder of the Vicarage, making the novel disappointing to readers and perhaps depressing its sales figures.

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