Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

In his own day, Émile Gaboriau was enormously popular and considered second only to Conan Doyle as a master of the detective story genre. Twenty years after his death, his crime novels were still best-sellers. Today, however, he is largely ignored and his books are mentioned, if at all, only as important footnotes in the history of detective fiction. Since FILE NO. 113 is a typical Gaboriau novel, it vividly demonstrates both the strengths and weaknesses of the author and helps to explain his popularity in his own time—and later, his relative obscurity.

FILE NO. 113 follows the pattern that is basic to all of Gaboriau’s crime novels. The robbery is discovered, and the police investigation commences. Led by Detective Fanferlot, who is erratic and overly eager, they immediately make false hypotheses, ignore important clues, and arrest Prosper Bertomy, the wrong suspect. After the preliminary investigation has been thoroughly bungled, Monsieur Lecoq enters the action disguised as the clownish Venduret. By the time his true identity is revealed and his procedures made overt, Lecoq is well on his way to solving the case, and the story moves quickly to a preliminary revelation. He correctly identifies Louis de Clameran and Raoul de Lagors as the culprits—with well over half the book yet remaining.

Once the criminal is named, Gaboriau stops describing the investigation and shifts his narrative to chronicle the events leading...

(The entire section is 463 words.)