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Last Updated on January 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 767

Erik Lönnrot

Erik Lönnrot is a detective who is highly cerebral in his methods. He considers himself a “pure reasoner,” not unlike Edgar Allan Poe’s Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin. Although Lönnrot regards himself as a creature of pure thought, the narrator states that “there was something of the adventurer in him, and even of the gamester.” Lönnrot is convinced that Dr. Yarmolinsky’s death is best approached as an intellectual puzzle rather than—as Commissioner Treviranus believes—an accident occasioned by the failure of a jewel theft. He begins to attempt a solution by studying Yarmolinky’s books in depth, and devotes three months to “sedentary investigation,” during which time the elaborate pattern underlying the series of crimes gradually becomes clear to him. Ultimately, however, Lönnrot’s brilliance in discovering theoretical patterns leads him to act without practical forethought and makes his own behavior easier to predict.

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Red Scharlach

Red Scharlach is initially described as “the most illustrious gunman in the South.” He is the antagonist and nemesis of Erik Lönnrot, whom he has hated since Lönnrot arrested his brother three years prior. In the fight that occurred on the Rue de Toulon that night, Scharlach was severely wounded and lay in the villa of Triste-le-Roy for nine days. During this time, he developed a delirious fixation with labyrinths and swore “to weave a labyrinth around the man who had imprisoned my brother.” Despite plotting his revenge so long and so meticulously, Scharlach seems wearily indifferent to his accomplishment of it. Lönnrot hears in his voice “a fatigued triumph, a hatred the size of the universe, a sadness no smaller than that hatred.” This fatigue does not prevent him from explaining his plans and motivations in considerable detail and with obvious pride in his own intellectual superiority.


Inspector Franz Treviranus

Treviranus is a high-ranking inspector who considers himself a practical man and has no use for Lönnrot’s abstruse and elaborate theories. He is particularly irritated by the apparently bookish and cerebral nature of the three murder cases, remarking after Yarmolinsky’s death that he has no time “to waste on Jewish superstitions.” Although Treviranus is wrong in assuming there is no intellectual pattern underlying the murders, he is correct to question the validity of Lönnrot’s theories. Ultimately, the plot is driven by a far simpler motivation than the mystical quest Lönnrot suspects.


The Editor of the Yidische Zaitung

The Editor of the Yidische Zaitung is described as a timid man and, despite his editorship of a Jewish paper, an atheist. He interviews Lönnrot and publishes an article stating “in three columns, that the investigator Erik Lönnrot had dedicated himself to studying the names of God in order to come across the name of the murderer.” He later publishes an editorial after the disappearance of Gryphius-Ginzberg, stating that he...

(The entire section contains 767 words.)

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