Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow is a mystery surrounding the death of Edgar Allen Poe. Set in 1849 Baltimore, it follows Quentin Clark, a promising young lawyer about to marry his childhood sweetheart. When he passes a neglected burial and learns it is the funeral of his favorite poet, Poe, he becomes obsessed with finding the truth behind the artist’s death. At this time Poe is not a renowned author, and he is criticized for his intemperance and oddities. Clark searches for the man who inspired Poe’s sleuth, and brings back from France C. Auguste Dupin. A race ensues to find the truth, while Clark’s obsessions quickly cause him to lose everything he had before.
It took me forever to read this book although I enjoyed it, which was slightly maddening. It was smart, well researched, and entertaining. I loved the detective Dupin, he was very Holmesian, using amazing deductive powers to solve the unsolvable. In fact, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet he compares Holmes to Dupin. However, the novel’s writing was often too wordy, and sometimes I felt Clark was silly to throw so much away to solve this mystery.
Try The Poe Shadow if you liked Matthew Pearl’s other literary-suspense novel The Dante Club.