Gaboriau's great detective, Monsieur Lecoq, appeared in several novels and influenced generations of detectives to come, including Holmes. File No.113 was first published in 1867. It gives us a wonderful picture of Lecoq at work.
We watch him assume various amusing disguises. He's such a master of imposture that not even his fellow policemen know his true face! We witness him orchestrating a network of police and amateur spies. We groan as he makes mistakes and marvel at how adeptly he recovers from his errors. We see him engage in scheming as devious and intricate as the duplicity of the criminals he's trying to ensnare.
The plot is launched with a clever bank robbery that implicates the head cashier, Prosper Bertomy. This attractive young man engages the interest of Lecoq, who suspects Prosper may be falsely accused. The fact that Prosper is unhappily in love also stirs Lecoq's sympathy. The wily detective is the champion of love in all its forms, as befits a Frenchman of good heart.
Human passions fuel events, and the events in the novel are sensational. Besides robbery there's murder, conspiracy, blackmail. The most respectable people engage in egregious lying. At times the elaborate scheming of the conspirators becomes a bit tedious, but I was so caught up in the story I didn't mind. Gaboriau is just trying to keep us in suspense. Nineteenth-century readers had the patience to wait for Lecoq to outwit the criminals.
Clues are examined, suspicious characters tailed and their backgrounds researched, as they might be in a modern thriller. But then there are the elaborate disguises and the Victorian morality to remind us we're in the nineteenth century.
So I loved this novel, as I have loved everything by Gaboriau.Read more ›