The Mystery of the Yellow Room

By Gaston Leroux

Rating: 4 stars

I’m a fan of the whodunit and a sucker for a good locked room mystery, so this early and clever example sucked me in from the start. I must confess to being unfamiliar with Joseph Rouletabille before reading this, but Leroux uses the template that Conan Doyle laid down and adds his own flourishes. Rather than an established detective, we have a junior reporter for a newspaper, and instead of bumbling police, we have a clever and sharp detective against whom Rouletabille wishes to prove his own wits. But other tropes – the sidekick to whom the detective can explain his cleverness, the Clues (Sam Vimes would have no truck with those), and even the pipe are all present and correct.

The mystery is an intriguing one – a young lady is assaulted in a locked room with no exits other than one door which her rescuers have to break down to get in. And when they do, they find the room empty of assailants. I must confess that since the young lady was a scientist (unusual in a work of this period) working with her father on the ‘disassociation of matter’, I did wonder a few times if a science fictional resolution would be forthcoming, as I couldn’t see any other solution, But the answer was stubbornly natural and, IMO, very clever.

I like the young Rouletabille and found his first adventure a clever and fun read. I also liked the sprinklings throughout the text of mention of a mysterious “lady in black” whose perfume evokes reminisces in Rouletabille and are obvious hooks for the sequel (even before I discovered that the sequel is, indeed, called The Perfume of the Lady in Black). I shall look forward to reading more of the Boy Reporter’s intrepid adventures.

Book details

ISBN: 9781840226478
Publisher: Wordsworth Editors
Year of publication: 1907

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