The Mystery of the Yellow Room

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The Mystery of the Yellow Room
Cover of the 1908 first edition
Cover of the 1908 first edition
Author Gaston Leroux
Original title Le mystère de la chambre jaune
Country France
Language French
Series Joseph Rouletabille
Genre Mystery fiction
Publisher L'Illustration (in serial)
Editions Pierre Lafitte (book)
Publication date
1907 in serial
January 1908 in book form
Media type Print (hardback & paperback), Audiobook
Pages 236 (1998 paperback)
ISBN ISBN 1-873982-38-0 (1998 paperback)
OCLC 59584573
Followed by The Perfume of the Lady in Black

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 reporter 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.

Agatha Christie admired the novel and in her early years said she would like to try writing such a book. John Dickson Carr, the master of locked-room mystery, has his detective Dr Gideon Fell declare this as the 'best detective tale ever written' in his 1935 novel The Hollow Man. In a poll of 17 mystery writers and reviewers, this novel was voted as the third best locked room mystery of all time, behind The Hollow Man and Hake Talbot's Rim of the Pit.[1]

The novel finds its continuation in The Perfume of the Lady in Black where a number of the characters familiar from this story reappear.

Plot summary[edit]

Reporter and amateur sleuth Joseph Rouletabille is sent to investigate a criminal case at the Château du Glandier and takes along his friend the lawyer Sainclair, who narrates. Mathilde Stangerson, the 30-something daughter of the castle's owner, Professor Joseph Stangerson, was found near-critically battered in a room adjacent to his laboratory on the castle grounds, with the door still locked from the inside. She recovers slowly but can make no useful testimony. Rouletabille meets and interrogates several characters: the castle's concierges Mr & Mrs Bernier, the old servant Jacques, an unfriendly inn landlord and a womanising gamekeeper, and begins a friendly rivalry with France's top police detective Frédéric Larsan, who has been assigned the case. Larsan suspects Miss Stangerson's fiancé, another scientist called Robert Darzac, to Rouletabille's dismay.

More attempts are made on Miss Stangerson's life despite Rouletabille and Larsan's protection, and the perpetrator appears to vanish on two occasions when they are closing in on him, echoing Professor's Stangerson's research into "matter dissociation". The game-keeper is murdered during the second attempt. Ultimately, Larsan arrests Darzac who is charged with murder attempts. Rouletabille suspects that Darzac has secret reasons not to defend himself and he disappears to make further investigations.

Two-and-a-half months later, as Darzac's trial opens, Rouletabille reappears sensationally and tells the court that the culprit is Frédéric Larsan himself, whom he accuses of being an alter-ego of a master criminal called Ballmeyer. Larsan appeared to vanish on the two occasions he was nearly collared as he was one of the pursuers. Darzac is released when it emerges that Larsan has vanished after Rouletabille warned him he would accuse him in court. The mystery of the locked Yellow Room is explained thus: Larsan assaulted Miss Stangerson earlier in the day than originally thought, but she hid the traces of the attack and locked herself. During the night, traumatised by the event, she fell off her bed and inflicted the gravest of the wounds by hitting her temple on the corner of her bed-side table.

The background to these events is kept secret in court but finally explained by Sainclair. Ballmeyer, in a different guise, had seduced Miss Stangerson in her youth and married her secretly in the United States. They had a child before he was arrested and his identity revealed to her. Miss Stangerson had arranged for her son's care and education and hidden the whole saga from her father; her silence and Robert Darzac's behaviour were motivated by her desperation to keep him from finding out. Ballmeyer however, hearing that she was engaged, had decided to reappear in her life and claim her as his wife once more, by force if necessary.

Characters[edit]

  • Joseph Rouletabille – the young journalist and amateur detective, protagonist
  • Sainclair – Rouletabille's friend and lawyer, the narrator
  • Frédéric Larsan – the police detective
  • Professor Stangerson – the scientist, owner of "Chateau du Glandier"
  • Mlle. Mathilde Stangerson – daughter of a famous scientist, the victim
  • "Daddy" Jacques – an old servant in the Stangerson family

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

Release details[edit]

  • 1907, France, L'illustration, Pub date ? September 1907—? November 1907, magazine serial (French)
  • 1908, France, Editions Jacques Lafitte (ISBN NA), Pub date ? ? 1908, hardback (First edition) (French)
  • 1934, UK, Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-832345-X), Pub date ? December 1934, paperback (French)
  • 1977, UK, Dover Publications (ISBN 0-486-23460-6), Pub date ? April 1977, paperback
  • 1978, UK, Remploy (ISBN 0-7066-0759-7), Pub date August 25, 1978, hardback
  • 1996, USA, Books on Tape (ISBN 5-557-12771-2), Pub date ? January 1996, audio book (Cassette)
  • 1996, USA, Buccaneer Books (ISBN 0-89966-141-6), Pub date ? June 1996, hardback (Library binding)
  • 1997, UK, Dedalus Ltd (ISBN 1-873982-38-0), Pub date August 10, 1997, paperback
  • 2002, USA, Indypublish.com (ISBN 1-4043-2003-2), Pub date August 1, 2002, paperback
  • 2002, USA, Indypublish.com (ISBN 1-4043-2002-4), Pub date August 1, 2002, hardback
  • 2004, UK, Thorndike Press (ISBN 0-7862-6991-X), Pub date Nov 2, 2004, hardback
  • 2005, USA, Kessinger Publishing (ISBN 0-7661-9366-7), Pub date April 1, 2005, paperback
  • 2006, UK, Blackstone Audiobooks (ISBN 0-7861-7523-0), Pub date ? April 2006, audio book (MP3 CD)
  • 2006, UK, Dover Publications (ISBN 0-486-44928-9), Pub date April 7, 2006, paperback
  • 2009, USA, Black Coat Press (ISBN 1-934543-60-8), Pub date October 2009, trade paperback

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]