Book Review: Mystery of the Yellow Room

July 9, 2012

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At the end of each volume of Detective Conan (Case Closed), one of which I last reviewed. There are pages that discuss other fictional detectives, such as Edogawa Rampo's Kogoro Akechi, or criminals, such as Arsene Lupin. In the volume reviewed last post, I was made aware of a character created by the author of The Phantom of the Opera. Like the other characters, a book was recommended, if interested in the character. Today, I am going to review that book, which is called Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux.

Joesph Rouletabille is and always has claimed to be strictly a journalist. However, a news report of a mysterious incident has caught his interest and asks his friend, Sainclair, about his thoughts on the case. The case appears to be an attempted locked room murder case and everyone is trying to find out how the culprit got in and out of the titular Yellow Room. A few moments later, they head to the scene of the crime in the same carriage as the examining magistrate. When they arrive at the scene, a famous detective in on the case, but even the actions and appearance of the detective draw some suspicion. Now, Rouletabille must uncover the truth before the culprit strikes again.

I liked this quite a bit, but I would not say that I enjoyed it a lot. Routelabille certainly seemed really intelligent to be able to figure out so many facts concerning the case without being at the scene of the crime. With that kind of brain, he does make quite a good detective character. Also, the ending was quite surprising. However, as it is a major spoiler, I will not discuss why it was so surprising. The story also did somewhat of a good job at keeping me in the dark until the end, which detective fiction should do. In fact, I only suspected the true culprit once, but my mind did not particularly stay on the true culprit for too long, like I did with Crooked House. Then again, that one was kind of obvious. The book went as should for detective fiction and had a surprising ending.

Even though I did like it, I cannot really say that this book is perfect. There are those who say the famous Sherlock had Watson or the Baker Street Irregulars do much of the dirty work, but I find Joseph to be much worse in that area. After all, Rouletabille pretty much just talked to people and convinced others of his deductions by having sound reasoning. Much of what we see action-wise is done by Sainclair, such as chasing after the culprit the group was supposedly after. Another problem with this work were the massive amounts of block quotes. I was seriously annoyed by the amount that I thought this whole thing was dialogue-driven. One thing I learned back in high school is that while dialogue is necessary in some situations, stories can be dull if they are dialogue-driven. I still tend to have a lot of dialogue in my stories, but I try not to make that the main focus of my stories. The other point that was kind of annoying was that I could not picture things really well. I could not see the chateau where the events took place, nor could I see the laboratory, where the Stangersons supposedly worked. While Rouletabille's is great, I see him as less active than Sherlock. The story felt dialogue-driven and told more than it showed.

Despite Rouletabille being so intelligent, I cannot really say that this was worth reading. The fact that it misled me to who the culprit really was is a plus, but the story relies too much on descriptions for those who are familiar with France or uses very little imagery. I recommend this to those that want to see a brillant mind and a nicely done detective fiction story. For everyone else, the lack of imagery and the fact that I view Rouletabille to be less active than Sherlock make me want to recommend avoiding this book and finding a different detective to read about.

What are your thoughts on Mystery of the Yellow Room? Do you agree or disagree with my views? Do you have anything to add? Feel free to comment.

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