This book is about Monsieur Lecoq, who is the creation of Émile Gaboriau, a 19th-century French writer and journalist. Monsieur Lecoq is a fictional detective employed by the French Sûreté. The character is one of the pioneers of the genre and a major influence on Sherlock Holmes (who, in A Study in Scarlet, calls him "a miserable bungler"), laying the groundwork for the methodical, scientifically minded detective. In French, "Monsieur" is "Mister" and his surname literally means "The Rooster".
In the person of armchair detective Tabaret, nicknamed Père Tireauclair, (lit. Father Bringer of Light, or "Old man Brings-to-light"), a title Lecoq himself will eventually inherit, Gaboriau also created an older mentor for Lecoq who, like Mycroft Holmes and Nero Wolfe, helps the hero solve particularly challenging puzzles while remaining largely inactive physically. In Tabaret's case, aid is dispensed from the comfort of his bed.