Monsieur Lecoq

lecoqMonsieur Lecoq
by Émile Gaboriau
1869 / 316 pages
Rating:  A+ / literary classic – police procedural –

I guess it’s the history embedded in classic lit which gets to me –  this is the first full length detective novel of the Western world.  It was published only three years after the death of Eugene Francois Vidocq, the first professional detective,  founder of the French national police force (Sûreté Nationale), and grand  inventor innovator of devices and methods.

Edgar Allen Poe was inspired by a news clipping about Vidocq to write the first detective story  and Wilkie Collins based much of The Moonstone by on the Vidocq.  Finally, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was modeled on the criminal-detective.

Although the books are similar in many ways,  Monsieur Lecoq  is quite a lot easier to read than Sherlock Holmes because the French is translated into more contemporary English – it’s an adequate translation.

Actually,  I wasn’t going to read it but it was free at Amazon so I downloaded it and started just to see.   I ended up being fascinated – probably because I knew the era –  ( The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (2008)  is a great book of an 1860 true crime case).
Meanwhile,  Emile Gaboriau didn’t write this volume, the 4th?,  of the Monsieur Lecoq mysteries until 1869  – the firstwas written in 1866. I think there are 11 total – this is the 4th.

Monsieur Leqoc uses Vidocq’s (note the similarity of names?) method of getting impressions of footprints and Vidocq was responsible for a lot of other innovations like a database, training, interrogation techniques, observations,  taking notes, disguises, etc.

And curious to note – Sherlock Holmes,  in the introductory story of The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes,  says he thinks Lecoq is a bumbler – it takes him way too long to solve a case – it could be a text book of what to avoid.   That said,  Gaboriau had a great influence on Arthur Conan Doyle,  but  Edgar Allen Poe (from 1841)  influenced Gaboriau as well.  These authors were  almost all writing during the 1860s – their influence is felt even today.


2 Responses to Monsieur Lecoq

  1. Dagny says:

    I’ve read a bunch of Gaboriau’s books and really enjoyed most of them. Quite a few in public domain English translation at Project Gutenberg. I prepared a lot of them. One of them, I was working away and noticing that the pages left were fewer and fewer. Pretty soon I’m thinking – there’s not enough time left to end this book! Sure enough, get to the last page and see a notice to find out what happens read the next book. I was ages finding that book!


  2. Well thank you for the PG work! 🙂 I suspect those were the serialized “novels.” I also enjoyed the book, but probably more for the historical value than the actual story line. A little compare and contrast stuff between Lecoq and today’s procedural crime (Michael Connelly?) is really interesting – I’ll always remember the footprint scene in Monsieur Lecoq.

    And many readers of crime fiction these days are quite knowledgable and picky about forensics and plot details – I think there may have been some holes in Monsieur Lecoq but I’d have to reread it and I’m not up to that – and I’m not that picky. lol


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