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The Poe Shadow: A Novelby Matthew Pearl
Synopses & Reviews
"I present to you...the truth about this man's death and my life."
Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe's own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe's.
As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe's demise, he discovers that the writer's last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe's death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin — in the form of Poe's own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe's death: the real-life model for Poe's brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.
In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade, and the lost secrets of Poe's final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe's.
Following his phenomenal debut novel, The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl has once again crossed pitch-perfect literary history with innovative mystery to create a beautifully detailed, ingeniously plotted tale of suspense. Pearl's groundbreaking research — featuring documented material never published before — opens a new window on the truth behind Poe's demise, literary history's most persistent enigma. The resulting novel is a publishing event that, through sublime craftsmanship, subtle wit, and devious twists, does honor to Poe himself.
"Fans of Pearl's bestselling debut, The Dante Club (2003), will eagerly embrace his second novel, a compelling thriller centered on the mysterious end of Edgar Allan Poe, who perished in Baltimore in 1849. Poe's ignominious funeral catches the notice of Quentin Clark, a young, idealistic attorney, who finds himself obsessed with rescuing Poe's reputation amid rumors that the writer died from an excess of drink. Clark's preoccupation soon becomes all-consuming, imperiling his practice and his engagement, especially after he learns that Poe's legendary master sleuth, the Chevalier Auguste Dupin, was modeled after a real person. The lawyer journeys to France to track down the real Dupin, in the hopes that the detective can help him solve the puzzle of Poe's death. Pearl masterfully combines fact with fiction and presents some genuinely new historical clues that help reconstruct Poe's final days. While Clark remains a little enigmatic, the exciting plot, numerous twists and convincing period detail could help land this on bestseller lists as well. Author tour. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The Poe Shadow works well on two levels: It's effective history, sure to please fans of Edgar Allan Poe, and also it can stand alone as a fine piece of mystery writing, brimming with suspense. This dual reward is a testament to Pearl's skill in making 19th-century facts come alive in a taut story line that delivers entertainment as well as insight." Rocky Mountain News
"Like Louis Bayard's The Pale Blue Eye...The Poe Shadow cannot quite overcome the fact that it is...an emulation of the style of the real person being fictionalized. But both books are still ingenious works with a rich knowledge of Poe's life. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"Pearl, who shows no signs of a sophomore slump in this work, continues to dazzle with his imagination and skill. One can't wait to see what he'll do next." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"This is similar to Pearl's Dante Club, which portrayed renowned authors trailing a serial killer, in its masterful blend of historical and fictional figures, meticulous research, and nineteenth-century literary style." Booklist
"Pearl demonstrates a clear mastery of Poe mythology and uses his knowledge of 1850s Baltimore to excellent effect. Clark is a bit of a bumbler, and the various denouements tend to be ponderous. Still, this literary historical mystery should please fans; highly recommended." Library Journal
"Regrettably, Mr. Pearl's prose style is not quite as rewarding as his research....What the book does with crushing accuracy is capture the heights of madness and devotion that Poe may have inspired in his time." The Wall Street Journal
"Its premise is irresistible....A few surprises aside, however, too little of substance happens, and Pearl's virtually bloodless characters never engage our interest. A disappointing successor to Pearl's terrific first novel." Kirkus Reviews
"The Poe Shadow fails to deliver a sufficiently compelling story to engage a wide audience. Pearl is a skilled and imaginative new writer, but his best book to date is his first novel and not his second." The Oregonian
"The Poe Shadow doesn't have the entertainingly lurid serial-killer plot of The Dante Club, but it does have charnel-houses, grave robbers, a dank prison and Malacca canes with swords in them. Poe would have liked it." Dallas Morning News
Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer of Edgar Allan Poes work, puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poes. Following his phenomenal debut, "The Dante Club," Pearl has again created a beautifully detailed, ingeniously plotted tale of suspense.
About the Author
Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club and the editor of the Modern Library editions of Dante's Inferno (translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) and Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales. The Dante Club has been published in more than thirty languages and forty countries around the world. Pearl is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School and has taught literature at Harvard and at Emerson College. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He can be reached via his website, www.matthewpearl.com.
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