The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

First written in 1908, The Mystery of the Yellow Room is considered one of the classics of the “locked-room”/impossible crime genre. Believe me, by the time you finish reading about the crime (never mind the rest of the book), you’ll be scratching your head saying “how on earth did this just happen?”

It seems that one Mathilde Stangerson goes off to her room (called The Yellow Room) in a pavilion where she and her father work at scientific experiments. The door is locked — then she is heard to scream, followed by 2 gun shots. As her father and one of the servants rush to the door, they break it open and find only Mathilde, with fresh strangulation marks, a lump on the head and bloody handprints on the walls. But that’s it. There’s no one else there, and there’s no way in the world whoever did this could have possibly escaped. Thus begins a very strange mystery.

The characters are rather interesting, especially the main character, young (18) journalist with the paper “L’Epoque” — a journalist with a detective bent. He shares his information with a M. Sinclair, the narrator of the story. Mathilde Stangerson is a woman with many secrets, and nothing is revealed until the end, keeping you hanging on. There are several suspects, many red herrings and multiple clues, so if you are okay with a somewhat rambling narrative (I think it can be excused given the date the book was written), you’ll probably find this one to be quite well done. It’s likely that modern readers may find this one a bit tedious since we often like to get to the point quickly. In this book, the who, how and why are not divulged until the last minute.

Recommended for people who enjoy classic mysteries and locked-room mysteries.

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