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Gaston Leroux

Gaston LerouxGaston Louis Alfred Leroux (1868 – 1927) was a French journalist, novelist, and author of detective fiction.

In the English-speaking world, he is best known for writing the novel ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, 1911), which has been made into several film and stage productions of the same name, notably the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical. The Phantom of the Opera contains some locked room elements, with the robbery of money from a theatre box under constant observation, but it his novel, ‘The Mystery of the Yellow Room’ which makes him so important to the locked room genre.  It was one of the first true locked room mystery novels, and is largely responsible for the establishment of this genre in French detective fiction. With Israel Zangwill’s ‘The Big Bow Mystery’, and the contributions of Poe and Conan Doyle, it is generally viewed as one of the most important works in the development of the locked room mystery. 

Leroux was born in Paris in 1868. He went to school in Normandy and studied law in Paris, graduating in 1889. He inherited millions of francs and lived wildly until he nearly reached bankruptcy. In 1890, he began working as a court reporter and theater critic for L’Écho de Paris. His most important journalism came when he began working as an international correspondent for the Paris newspaper Le Matin, covering the 1905 Russian Revolution.

He suddenly left journalism in 1907, and began writing fiction. He was a prolific author, writing 37 novels and several short stories, including eight books with locked room elements, though ‘Le mystère de la chambre jaune’ (1908) (The Mystery of the Yellow Room), starring the amateur detective Joseph Rouletabille, is generally considered to be his masterpiece in this genre. 

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Gaston Leroux Locked Room Novels

double lifeThe Double Life (1904)
AKA: The Man With The Black Feather / Original title: La Double Vie de theophraste longuet
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Available in used paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: A man possessed by a dead villain

Theophraste Longuet, retired rubber stamp manufacturer, is periodically possessed by the spirit of a long-dead villain named Cartouche, in this rather feverish melodrama.

yellow roomThe Mystery of The Yellow Room (1907)
Le mystère de la chambre jaune
Rouletabille Series



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Available in paperback, ebook, and audible editions. French language film.

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Note: Death with a blunt instruments in a sealed room

One of the original Locked Room novels, contemporary with the Sherlock Holmes stories. Originally published in French in 1907, it is truly a must read Locked Room classic! Unfortunately the film is in French!

More on: ‘The Mystery of The Yellow Room’

Perfume BlackThe Perfume of the Lady in Black (1908)
Le parfum de la dame en noir
Rouletabille Series



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Note: A sequel to ‘The Mystery of The Yellow Room’

A body appears in a locked living area and all the possible suspects have alibis. Note: It is highly recommended that you read the ‘The Mystery of The Yellow Room’ first, as the plot assumes this is the case. 

Phantom OperaThe Phantom of The Opera (1911)
Le fantôme de l’Opéra
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Available in used paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: The source of the famous stage hit!

Classified as a locked room mystery as money is stolen from a theatre box under constant observation.

Modern audiences are well acquainted with Gaston Leroux’s famous Phantom of the Opera, the tale of Erik, a horrifically disfigured man who lives in the underground beneath the Paris Opera House, where his creative genius mingles – and festers – with madness. First published in 1910, the Phantom’s obsessive and consuming love for the beautiful young chorus girl Christine has captivated readers, film goers and musical theater fanatics for over 100 years. Passion, violence and suspense: all the makings of a great thriller are here, in this enduring novel where “hero” is a relative term and love is both destructive and redemptive.

More on: The Phantom of The Opera

Secret NightThe Secret of the Night (1912)
AKA: Rouletabille and the Tsar. Original title: Rouletabille chez le Tsar
Rouletabille Series



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Note: Impossible poison in Russia!

The Nihilists have condemned the Russian General Trebassof to death for the crimes he and his troops committed against the revolution. Three attempts on his life have failed, but the Czar is determined to keep him alive. The Czar assigns the redoubtable, French detective reporter, Rouletabille to the case. It soon becomes apparent that one of the General’s own retinue is in league with the assassins, when an impossible attempted poisoning must be explained!

BalaooBalaoo (1911)
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Available in used paperback and ebook editions.

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Note: Balaloo the ape-man!

Balaloo is Poe’s orangutang on steroids. A pithecanthrope, or ape-man, created by a mad scientist. Balaoo can pass for human and lives in a tree-house, when he is not being forced to commit crimes by a band of forest-dwelling crooks. The result is an accidental impossible murder that puts the police on Balaoo’s trail. A man is strangled to death in a locked area – with footprints crossing the ceiling!

Secret boîte à théThe Secret of The Tea Box (1914)
Le Secret de la boîte à thé AKA: Pouloulou
No Series

Available only in French paperback



Note: A strange crime occurs in the Castle Lavardens!

Unpublished manuscript discovered by Leroux heirs, authenticated by Francis Lacassin, and published by Michel Lafon in 1990. A series of inexplicable deaths, false accusations, and misleading clues lead us on a chase from Constantinople to Russia! Listed as a locked room mystery by Lacourbe. No reviews are available.

revient de loinThe Man Who Came Back From The Dead (1916)
L’ homme qui revient de loin. Translated by: Geoffrey Garrod.
No Series

English translations are very rare. Available in French as a used paperback or as a free French eBook.


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Note: A series of ghostly murders!

A collection of bizarre crimes and impossible murders involving ghosts and seances. No reviews available.

Gaston Leroux Bibliography

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