On mysteries not being so mysterious

Image‘The Mysery of the Yellow Room’ (Or La Mystere de la Chambre Jaune, in its original French) by Gaston Leroux is one of the original ‘locked room’ mysteries. A young woman is attacked while sleeping, in a locked room, and when her father desperately batters down the door, there is no one there. This instantly draws the reader into the question, ‘what happened behind that locked door?’

Problem is, I already knew the answer to that question before I started reading the book.

Several years ago, ‘La Mystere de La Chambre Jaune’ was adapted into a movie, and I own the DVD. I have seen in a handful of times, and therefore know exactly what happened behind that locked door. I was a bit worried when I started reading the book for the 1001 Chidlren’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up that I would be a bit bored, since I already know the twists and turns of the book, and the big reveal. Is there any point reading a mystery novel if the main mystery is not a mystery to you?

However, I was pleasantly surprised with the book. Despite knowing who attacked the lovely lady in the locked room, and remembering quite a few details as to how they escaped from that locked room, I was entertained the whole book along. Maybe because of all the gentle humour sprinkled throughout the novel. Maybe because of the character of Joseph Rouletabille, who is clever while still being endearing. But I enjoyed reading the book because I could see all the clues and tidbits that Gaston Leroux dropped for Rouletabille (and the reader), and how the wheels churning in Rouletabille’s head put everything together. I like it because I had already seen the movie.

I often read crime books when I’m travelling, especially Agatha Christie, but I rarely reread them. In fact, I’m not sure I ever really have, except for a book of Hercule Poirot short stories my Gran gave me for my birthday when I was eleven or twelve. I mean, what’s the point? I think to myself. I already know ‘who did it’. But maybe I should give some of my crime books a second go. After all, a lot of those books I read years ago, and I hardly remember what the book was about, let alone who killed who and how. But even if I do remember, it might be an interesting exercise to see the crime being pieced together when you know more than the detective (or his sidekick) knows. I’ll have to give some of them another go. I am sure to feel superior as I can see straight away who killed who and how – and I would love to feel superior to Hercule Poirot for a change.



  1. Pingback: On where the list of 1001 Children’s Books I Must Read Before I Grow Up (Too Much) comes from | 1001 Children's Books

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