The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > The Mystery of the Yellow Room - Week 1

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message 1: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
We have quite the cast of characters. A scientist, a daughter (the victim), a beast if God, a sixteen and a half writer/detective, and saint woman in the woods. Add a locked room and a creepy castle, and you have a mystery. The story takes off running with the attack in chapter one.

To get us started:

1. Who is the narrator? Are they reliable?

2. How does this mystery compare to Poe or Conan Doyle’s mysyeries? To the classic mysteries of Christie, Sayers, Tey, and the like?

3. How would the readers of the time perceive Stangerson?


message 2: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
It's very interesting so far.

I think the gatekeepers were dressed because they suspected something was going on, but they fear the murderer.

Is there a secret society involved? Thinking about the phrases Rouletabille (sp?) said to the fiance and the innkeeper. And it could also be the reason the gatekeepers are afraid. Sounds like something Conan Doyle would have, but I'm not familiar with this author.

Whoever it was tried to frame Daddy Jacques with the hat, boot marks, and handkerchief.

There is something between the Green Man and the innkeeper's wife. I don't think the Green Man had anything to do with the murder.

I suspect the chambermaid. Just because.


message 3: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments I am enjoying the story and mystery so far. Besides trying to figure out how the murderer actually escaped the room, I'm also especially curious what the phrase uttered by Rouletabille to Darzac means, and why it seems to have such a terrifying influence on Darzac. Also, what does it mean that the same phrase was found half-charred in the chimney of the laboratory?

I wonder at the possibility of Darzac at being a suspect. What motive would he have in killing his fiance after courting her for so long?

I liked the hypothesis that the murderer escaped via the mattress. I would have not thought of that, but it shows that at least all options are being investigated, even if they seem absurd.

Why is the inspector, Frederic Larsan, spending so much time by the lake and that, according to Daddy Jacques, "he does not need to examine The Yellow Room" and that the murder escaped by a "natural way". I am looking forward to Larsan's explanation given that the rest of the people investigating seem to be stumped!

A couple of notes pertaining to my edition of the book -

1. I like how there is a little drawing of the layout of the pavilion, even showing the footsteps outside the vestibule. It allows the reader to more easily envision which routes the murderer could make his escape.

2. My book has an illustration of Rouletabille, but I don't see a credit for the illustrator, if it was Gaston Leroux himself or someone else. I'm wondering because the way he is presented does not make him appear to be a 19 year old man, but instead he looks more like a 40+ year old man. When I have a bit more time, I'll try to find the illustration online and post it. Also, I haven't had time to read all the extra information posted here pertaining to the book, so perhaps something was mentioned there.


message 4: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
The narrator is a barrister, observing his friend R., the young reporter at work.
It reminds of Holmes and Watson, since R. seems to be on to something and our narrator doesn't have a clue.
I like the reference to Murders in the Rue Morgue, where the murderer was an ape.
I think that Mlle S. is hiding something, or else why did she suddenly decide to say yes to her constant suitor.

I am enjoying this so far. It is not at all like The Phantom of the Opera.


message 5: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 08:12AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments “What was the motive for the crime?” “Speaking for myself, Monsieur, there can be no doubt on the matter,” said Mademoiselle Stangerson’s fiance, greatly distressed. “The nails of the fingers, the deep scratches on the chest and throat of Mademoiselle Stangerson show that the wretch who attacked her attempted to commit a frightful crime.'

I think the 'frightful crime' alluded to here is rape which was not something that could be spelled out in novels of this period.


message 6: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 01:40AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments The female concierge was wearing 'sabot' which were leather clogs worn by workers in several European countries. As painted by Van Gogh:

https://goo.gl/images/twngrq


message 7: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments The mutton bone referred to as a weapon would be from a leg òf a sheep with the foot bone at one end, widening to a broad piece of bone, ending in a hard 'knuckle' which which could be used as a cudgel. It was a popular, cheap cut of meat for a family and the bone and marrow made good, nourishing soup. Butchers also sold the bone separately.


message 8: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
There's so much emphasis placed on the scientists' (the father and daughter's) work, that I'm starting to wonder if that was a motive. Did they have rivals? Did someone want them to stop their research? Do the father and daughter suspect rivals and are they afraid to say so for some reason? It doesn't seem that just hearing noises at night would be enough reason to take a gun to bed, especially with a locked door and barred windows.
Rouletabille says there was only one murderer with no accomplice, but is he always right?


message 9: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Madge UK wrote: "“What was the motive for the crime?” “Speaking for myself, Monsieur, there can be no doubt on the matter,” said Mademoiselle Stangerson’s fiance, greatly distressed. “The nails of the fingers, the ..."

I’m glad you brought that up as it was not something I had considered. I guess my mind got stuck on traditional mysteries where a death is involved.


message 10: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "There's so much emphasis placed on the scientists' (the father and daughter's) work, that I'm starting to wonder if that was a motive. Did they have rivals? Did someone want them to stop their rese..."

The work also deals with electricity. Mad scientist or just scientist?


message 11: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 10:47AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments Deborah wrote: "Madge UK wrote: "“What was the motive for the crime?” “Speaking for myself, Monsieur, there can be no doubt on the matter,” said Mademoiselle Stangerson’s fiance, greatly distressed. “The nails of ..."

And if the motive was rape the crime must have been committed by a man, which rules out the female concierge and the maid.


message 12: by Andry (new)

Andry I find the mutton-bone out of place...what is its meaning? Why should the murderer take a bone with him when he could have used anything else? Can you imagine someone going around with a bone?


message 13: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 10:05AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments In Chap 9 Frederic Larsan is dismissive of Rouletabille's theories and says:

“You’d make a wonderful detective -- if you had a little more method -- if you didn’t follow your instincts and that bump on your forehead. As I have already several times observed, Monsieur Rouletabille, you reason too much; you do not allow yourself to be guided by what you have seen.'

This is a reference to the pseudo science of Phrenology which was popular at the time. The faculties of Perception and Observation were thought by some to reside in a 'bump' on your forehead, just above the nose:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phren...

Queen Victoria had the heads of all her children 'read' by a Phrenologist. Readers of Sherlock Holmes may recall that he often used phrenology to detect criminal propensity.


message 14: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I looked up the French words os de mouton and it is only a part of the bone and would fit in a large pocket.


message 15: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 10:49AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments Andry wrote: "I find the mutton-bone out of place...what is its meaning? Why should the murderer take a bone with him when he could have used anything else? Can you imagine someone going around with a bone?"

A bone is a more innocent possession than a knife or cudgel as the meat on it could have been your lunch and you could take it home to be used in a soup, or for your dog. No fast food outlets then!


message 16: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 10:40AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments Rosemarie wrote: "I looked up the French words os de mouton and it is only a part of the bone and would fit in a large pocket."

Like this perhaps:

http://abmeat.com/m-soupbones.html


message 17: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
Madge UK wrote: "And if the motive was rape the crime must have been committed by a man, which rules out the female concierge and the maid."

If that was the motive, I think the suspect would be Darzac, but for some reason I doubt that was the motive. Someone who wanted to rape her probably wouldn't have brought a mutton bone. A knife, maybe. I'm not sure it's possible to threaten someone at mutton-bone point.


message 18: by Madge UK (last edited May 08, 2018 01:41PM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments LOL. I think a mutton bone would be a good cudgel with which to stun someone and Mlle Stangerson was bleeding from a wound on her head..They are quite heavy and it would seem from this passage that they were a commonly used weapon:

“It was an enormous mutton-bone, the top of which, or rather the joint, was still red with the blood of the frightful wound. It was an old bone, which may, according to appearances, have served in other crimes. That’s what Monsieur de Marquet thinks. He has had it sent to the municipal laboratory at Paris to be analysed. In fact, he thinks he has detected on it, not only the blood of the last victim, but other stains of dried blood, evidences of previous crimes.” “A mutton-bone in the hand of a skilled assassin is a frightful weapon,” said Rouletabille, “a more certain weapon than a heavy hammer.”


message 19: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments Madge UK wrote: "I think the 'frightful crime' alluded to here is rape which was not something that could be spelled out in novels of this period."

Thank you, Madge. That had not crossed my mind!


message 20: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments Madge UK wrote: "A bone is a more innocent possession than a knife or cudgel as the meat on it could have been your lunch and you could take it home to be used in a soup, or for your dog."

Also a convenient way to get rid of the murder weapon, and it doesn't seem out of place in the stock pot. Hiding in plain sight.


message 21: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments Lori wrote: "I'm not sure it's possible to threaten someone at mutton-bone point."

Ha! :D


message 22: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Lori wrote: "Madge UK wrote: "And if the motive was rape the crime must have been committed by a man, which rules out the female concierge and the maid."

If that was the motive, I think the suspect would be Da..."


I need to read the comments further. Yet wasn’t there a story of a leg of lamb as the murder weapon that was later fed to people? Geez, I wish I could remember the reference


message 23: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Roald Dahl had a short story about a roast something or other.


message 24: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments Deborah wrote: "Yet wasn’t there a story of a leg of lamb as the murder weapon that was later fed to people? Geez, I wish I could remember the reference"

Oh, you're right! I think I read that in high school.


message 25: by Linda (new)


message 26: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Rosemarie is correct...

http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/..."


There was another one too. Maybe it was the twilight zone series. A woman killed her husband with a leg of lamb, then cooked the lamb and fed it to the police investigating the death


message 27: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments I could see that as a Twilight Zone episode.

The Roald Dahl story is the one I remember from high school as I the name Mary Maloney looked familiar right away.


message 28: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1928 comments Mod
Interestingly, Stangerson is also the name of one of the victims in the first Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet


message 29: by Frances, Moderator (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1928 comments Mod
First mutton bone as murder weapon I’ve come across in many years of mystery reading!


message 30: by Andry (new)

Andry come on...a stone would have been easier to find and to throw away...I really cannot understand this choice, unless it has something to do with a lunch/dinner we don't know yet


message 31: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I looked up os de mouton at a French site. The weapon had been carved and adjusted to make it smaller and more deadly. From what I read, I gathered that it was often part of the arsenal of a thug, since it gave a different literary source than the book we are reading.


message 32: by Madge UK (last edited May 09, 2018 08:02AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments Thanks Rosemarie, I thought it must be a known weapon because Rouletabille said 'A mutton-bone in the hand of a skilled assassin is a frightful weapon...a more certain weapon than a heavy hammer' implying he had come across them before.


message 33: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
How does this mystery compare to our mysteries today? Is it less interesting/exciting because the victim is still alive?


message 34: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments She may still die! I find the format much the same.

How many chapters are we reading/discussing in Week 1?


message 35: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
The first 8 chapters in week 1, then the next 8 in week 2, and the rest in week 3.

And she still may die, I agree. And I also think she has something to hide.


message 36: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1435 comments Mod
Usually, we need the victim dead so that they can't talk.

In this case, she is alive, but doesn't have any information to give--supposedly because she did not get a good look and then lost consciousness.

But I agree that she's hiding something. I think she knows who the attacker was, and maybe her father does too.


message 37: by Madge UK (last edited May 09, 2018 10:36AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments What do folks make of the phrase

"The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm, nor the garden its brightness.”

In Chapter 6 it was repeated ominously for the third time:

'I bent over the piece of scorched paper which Monsieur Darzac took from the hand of Rouletabille, and read distinctly the only words that remained legible: “Presbytery -- lost nothing -- charm, nor the gar -- its brightness.” Twice since the morning these same meaningless words had struck me, and, for the second time, I saw that they produced on the Sorbonne professor the same paralyzing effect. Monsieur Darzac’s anxiety first showed itself when he turned his eyes in the direction of Papa Jacques. But, occupied as he was at another window, he had seen nothing. Then tremblingly opening his wallet, Darzac put the piece of paper into it, sighing: “My God!”'

A presbytery is the part of a Scottish Presbyerian church where the elders officiate and where an altar would be, also called sanctuary or chancel. A sacred place. It also has other meanings:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presb...

(Edited.)


message 38: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
I wonder if it is some kind of secret code.


message 39: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Madge UK wrote: "What do folks make of the phrase

"The presbytery has lost nothing of its charm, nor the garden its brightness.”

In Chapter 6 it was repeated ominously for the third time:

'I bent over the piece ..."


Yes it’s a strange phrase. I wonder whether readers of the time would recognize it or it’s as Rosemarie indicates a secret code


message 40: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments Perhaps. The words obviously have another worrying meaning for Professor Danzac and perhaps Papa Jacques too.


message 41: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments Deborah wrote: "How does this mystery compare to our mysteries today? Is it less interesting/exciting because the victim is still alive?"

To me it's still exciting. I really want to know how the suspect escaped!


message 42: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments @ #39: It could be a quote from another murder mystery of the time which ended badly.


message 43: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get an illustration of R. I want to see his round head and a layout of the pavilion and the yellow room. I bought two kindle “illustrated” editions trying to get all of the clues to look at. Alas, I failed. 99 cents just doesn’t buy what it used to.;-(

I think people at the time perceive the Stangersons as ‘out of touch’ with their life. The class system is going strong at this time and Father and Daughter can buy whatever house they want, wherever they want. Also they are intellectually above most others which would make many uncomfortable. However here we can see that all have different intellectual abilities. Father and daughter’s scientific knowledge doesn’t seem to help with much of the investigation so far. Yet R. And Larsen are very good at detective work (is there a difference between logical/rational and instinctive?)(Also there seems to be a crossover between detective work and journalist work in some people)

Thanks Madge UK. I could not for the life of me understand why it was bad that R. Was being told by Larsen that he would never be a good detective because he reasoned too much. I would never have understood he meant R.’s use of phrenology. I understand phrenology, have seen it used in many movies and read of its use in many books. I’ll go back and read with this in mind. Again, I don’t think it would have crossed my mind.


message 44: by Madge UK (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments If you search for 'mystery yellow room' and then search google images Candace you will find illustrations of the room and of Rouletabille.


message 45: by Deborah, Moderator (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 4497 comments Mod
Madge UK wrote: "If you search for 'mystery yellow room' and then search google images Candace you will find illustrations of the room and of Rouletabille."

Thanks Madge. I will try that. I had one map that was corrupted on my kindle.


message 46: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2939 comments Mod
Thanks, Madge. I just checked it out and it really helps. I enjoyed the various covers too.


message 47: by Linda (new)

Linda | 230 comments This is the illustration of Rouletabille that is in my book:

Rouletabille

And the diagram:

diagram

1. The Yellow Room, with its one window and its one door opening into the laboratory.

2. Laboratory, with its two large, barred windows and its doors, one serving for the vestibule, the other for The Yellow Room.

3. Vestibule, with its unbarred window and door opening into the park.

4. Lavatory.

5. Stairs leading to the attic.

6. Large and the only chimney in the pavilion, serving for the experiments of the laboratory.


message 48: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) | 138 comments Thanks Linda, that is just what I needed .

I didn’t think of googling Madge. I’ll try that when I need a picture again!!


message 49: by Madge UK (last edited May 10, 2018 07:53AM) (new)

Madge UK (madgeuk) | 2933 comments I came across this hilarious example of phrenology. Goodness knows how we should interpret Rouletabille's very prominent forehead:

https://sobadsogood.com/2014/04/04/wh...


message 50: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Madge UK wrote: "I came across this hilarious example of phrenology. Goodness knows how we should interpret Rouletabille's very prominent forehead:

https://sobadsogood.com/2014/04/04/wh......"


How people went to believe in this science/i>? What support this kind of theory?


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