Émile Gaboriau is an important figure in the history of detective fiction. A French journalist and novelist, he created the "roman policier" with a series of books involving private detective Monsieur Lecoq, who works logically. Lecoq was based on a real-life thief turned policeman named Francois Vidocq (1775-1857), whose memoirs mixed fiction and fact. Gaboriau's huge following was eclipsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Interestingly, Holmes may have been at least partly based on another of Gaboriau's characters, consulting detective Father Tabaret, whose methods Monsieur Lecoq adopts in the first Lecoq book.
At about eleven o'clock in the evening of the 20th of February, 186—, which chanced to be Shrove Sunday, a party of detectives left the police station near the old Barriere d'Italie to the direct south of Paris. Their mission was to explore the district extending on the one hand between the highroad to Fontainebleau and the Seine, and on the other between the outer boulevards and the fortifications.
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