A locked room mystery which does not involve a murder, this 1907 French novel was written by the writer who gave [b:The Phantom of the Opera|480204|The Phantom of the Opera|Gaston Leroux|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327867727s/480204.jpg|2259720] to the world. It contains red herrings aplenty and a rather annoying detective: a smart-alecky 18 year old pipe-smoking genius who works as a journalist. The narrator is Dr Watson to his Sherlock Holmes - a stand-in for the reader who is there to have plot points explained in a way that the most obtuse can understand. There is little to no character development and the identity of the perpetrator comes out of left field. Sure, the clues are there, as the detective painstakingly points out to the narrator after the big reveal and I daresay a smart reader could work out the solution. However, I didn't work it out, which made for a more enjoyable reading experience.
I read this in French, which means that I read it more slowly than otherwise would have been the case. This is because when I read in French I feel the need to look up every unfamiliar word in the dictionary. I don't do this when I listen to a French audiobook. Rather, I work out the meaning of words I don't know from the context and manage just fine. I only wish I could leave the dictionary alone when I read! One advantage of reading in French is that it reacquaints me with the wonders of French verb tenses. I particularly love the literary simple past tense, which is not generally used in speech. Indeed, reading all those lovely verbs took me back to school, where my favourite reference book was [b:L'Art de Conjuguer|1723586|L'Art de Conjuguer|Louis-Nicolas Bescherelle|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1187412071s/1723586.jpg|1720983].
This is a competent example of the locked room mystery genre. It's not something I'll want to read again, but I'm glad to have read it once, particularly in the company of my friend Jemidar.