GASTON LEROUX The Perfume of the Lady in Black

GASTON LEROUX – The Perfume of the Lady in Black. Brentano’s, US, hardcover, 1908. Published in the UK in paperback by London Daily Mail, 1909. Translation of Le Parfum de la Dame en Noir, Paris, 1909. Softcover reprints include: Dedalus Ltd, 1998; Wildside Press, 2012. Silent film: Eclair, 1914, as Le Parfum de la Dame en Noir (scw & dir: Emile Chautard). Sound film: Osso, 1931, as Parfum de la Dame en Noir (dir: Marcel L’Herbier). Also: Alcina, 1949, as Le Parfum de la Dame en Noir (scw: Vladimir Pozner; dir: Louis Daquin).

   The present volume is a sequel to that exceptionally clever detective story, The Mystery of the Yellow Room. We presume that it is no disadvantage in a sequel, from the practical point of view, that it shall send the reader back to the pages of its predecessor.

   That is what M. Leroux does in the present instance, though indirectly. Yet it would have been better to insert a frank recommendation right at the beginning that the earlier work be read as a preparation for the treat to come; for without a previous acquaintance with the two men whose deeds fill the pages of both stories, the reader will find it somewhat difficult to enter into the spirit of the latter events.

   The Perfume of the Lady in Black can be described as inferior to The Mystery of the Yellow Room and yet remain a tale of mystery and ‘ratiocination’ very far above the average. Its inferiority consists in this, that the same device which was employed with simple and direct ingenuity in the earlier book, appears here in a somewhat mechanical and cumbersome setting.

   Still, the highest judgment a book of this kind can aspire to is that it cannot be laid down till it is finished. That verdict can be justly pronounced in the present case.

– Unsigned
– “Current Fiction”
– March 18, 1909
– [Scroll down to page 282, middle]

Editorial comment: Thanks to Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV for the information about the various film versions of this book.