The second volume of the investigations of a 19th century French police detective
Monsieur Lecoq is one of the earliest fictional detectives and his success with the reading public undoubtedly influenced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the creation of his more renowned fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. Lecoq, who was based on the actual former criminal turned police officer, Eugene Vidocq, was the creation of Emile Gaboriau (1832-73), a French author who had tried his hand at several genres before he became a pioneer of ‘detective fiction’. ‘The Lerouge Case’ (1866) catapulted him to almost instantaneous fame. His reputation secured, more Lecoq stories followed and earned Gaboriau a substantial international readership, though this was diminished by the arrival of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Nevertheless, Gaboriau continued to write crime novels and enjoyed considerable success especially in France until his untimely death (aged just 40 years) from pulmonary apoplexy. In common with the life of the character upon whom he is based, Lecoq has a dark side to his personality which contrasts sharply with the usual unambiguously moral personalities of most of the great detectives in this genre. He has, however, the obligatory foil in the person of Taberet, an ‘armchair detective’ who acts as mentor to Lecoq and provides intellectual assistance to solve crimes without leaving his own bed. Unlike Holmes, Lecoq is not a private detective but an officer of the French Surete or La SureteNationale which initially served as the detective branch of the Paris police force and was in fact created in 1812 by Vidocq who was its director until 1827. This Leonaur collection brings together all the Lecoq cases into one four volume edition for modern readers to enjoy. In volume two readers will discover, ‘File No. 113’ and ‘A Disappearance’,
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
After long and painful meditation, the banker finally decided to wait, and watch his wife.
It was a hard struggle for a man of his frank, upright nature, to play the part of a domestic spy, and jealous husband.
Accustomed to give way to sudden bursts of anger, but quickly mastering them, he would find it difficult to be compelled to preserve his self-restraint, no matter how dreadful the discoveries might be. When he collected the proofs of guilt one by one, he must impose silence upon his resentment, until fully assured of possessing certain evidence.
There was one simple means of ascertaining whether the diamonds had been pawned.
If the letter lied in this instance, he would treat it with the scorn it deserved. If, on the other hand, it should prove to be true!
At this moment, the servant announced breakfast; and M. Fauvel looked in the glass before leaving his study, to see if his face betrayed the emotion he felt. He was shocked at the haggard features which it reflected.
“Have I no nerve?” he said to himself: “oh! I must and shall control my feelings until I find out the truth.”
At table he talked incessantly, so as to escape any questions from his wife, who, he saw, was uneasy at the sight of his pale face.
But, all the time he was talking, he was casting over in his mind expedients of getting his wife out of the house long enough for him to search her bureau.
At last he asked Madame Fauvel if she were going out before dinner.
“Yes,” said she: “the weather is dreadful, but Madeleine and I must do some shopping.”
“At what time shall you go?”
“Immediately after breakfast.”
He drew a long breath as if relieved of a great weight.
In a short time he would know the truth.
His uncertainty was so torturing to the unhappy man that he preferred the most dreadful reality to his present agony.
Breakfast over, he lighted a cigar, but did not remain in the dining-room to smoke it, as was his habit. He went into his study to try and compose his nerves.
He took the precaution to send Lucien on a message so as to be alone in the house.
After the lapse of half an hour, he heard the carriage roll away with his wife and niece.
Hurrying into Madame Fauvel’s room, he opened the drawer of the chiffonier, where she kept her jewels.
The last dozen or more leather and velvet boxes, containing superb sets of jewellery which he had presented to her, were gone!
Twelve boxes remained. He nervously opened them.
They were all empty!
The anonymous letter had told the truth.
“Oh, it cannot be!” he gasped in broken tones. “Oh, no, no!”
He wildly pulled open every drawer in the vain hope of finding them packed away. Perhaps she kept them elsewhere.
He tried to hope that she had sent them to be reset; but no, they were all superbly set in the latest fashion; and, moreover, she never would have sent them all at once. He looked again.
Nothing! not one jewel could he find.
He remembered that he had asked his wife at the Jandidier ball why she did not wear her diamonds; and she had replied with a smile:
“Oh! what is the use? Everybody knows them so well; and, besides, they don’t suit my costume.”
Yes, she had made the answer without blushing, without showing the slightest sign of agitation or shame.
What hardened impudence! What base hypocrisy concealed beneath an innocent, confiding manner!
And she had been thus deceiving him for twenty years! But suddenly a gleam of hope penetrated his confused mind—slight, barely possible; still a straw to cling to: