I have Ali’s lovely review of this book here  to thank for introducing me to this wonderful author (and character!). I’d only ever heard of Leroux in the context of “The Phantom of the Opera” which I’ve never read, so I was intrigued to learn about his crime novel from Ali’s post.

Wikipedia says:

The Mystery of the Yellow Room (in French Le mystère de la chambre jaune) by Gaston Leroux, is one of the first locked room mystery crime fiction novels. It was first published in France in the periodical L’Illustration from September 1907 to November 1907, then in its own right in 1908.

It is the first novel starring fictional detective Joseph Rouletabille, and concerns a complex and seemingly impossible crime in which the criminal appears to disappear from a locked room. Leroux provides the reader with detailed, precise diagrams and floorplans illustrating the scene of the crime. The emphasis of the story is firmly on the intellectual challenge to the reader, who will almost certainly be hard pressed to unravel every detail of the situation.

Which sums the book up quite nicely!

It certainly is a remarkably good read – the characters of Rouletabille and his Watson-like sidekick Sainclair are appealing and entertaining (I believe Leroux acknowledged that he was inspired by both Conan Doyle and Poe). The plot is fiendish and complex and it’s impossible to say too much about it without giving a lot away – certainly, the denouement took me completely by surprise. However, leaving aside the detectives, the book tells the tale of a murderous attack of Mme. Stangerson, daughter of an eminent scientist alongside whom she works. Her fiance Robert Darzac is behaving in a somewhat strange manner, Old Jacques the servant seems to have something to hide, and the womanising gamekeeper is causing ructions amongst the local ladies, including the beautiful wife of the local inn’s landlord. The famous detective, Frederic Larsan, is sent to investigate and a rivalry develops between him and Rouletabille to see who will solve the mystery first. The characters are lively, the setting well-drawn and the puzzle beautifully perplexing.

I’d highly recommend this novel for any aficionado of the detective genre – it’s quite essential! I really needed something like this after the long journey through “The Brothers Karamazov”, and found myself reading much too late into the night to find out whodunnit! A great read and thanks Ali for pointing me in the direction of this wonderful mystery!