by Gaston Leroux
In her 1963 book The Clocks, mystery queen Agatha Christie gives a shout-out to this classic “locked room” novel, published in 1908 by the Frenchman Gaston Leroux. This is interesting because Leroux and Yellow Room protagonist Joseph Rouletabille were clearly on Christie’s mind when she created her most indelible character: the great detective Hercule Poirot.
Other than age and occupation, Christie’s Poirot and Leroux’s young hero have a lot in common. (Rouletabille is an 18-year-old journalist.) Like Poirot, Rouletabille is brilliant, underestimated by nearly everyone, and takes an almost malicious delight in withholding crucial information from his clueless associate, who also serves as the story’s narrator. At one point, the eccentric Rouletabille even refers to his little grey cells – although not in precisely those words.
As for the mystery itself, Yellow Room features other Christie-like qualities: suspects who harbor secrets, dark doings at an isolated estate, and disguise as an important plot point. Leroux, who also penned The Phantom of the Opera, was especially skilled at misdirection.
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