"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.
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) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 10, 2007
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Excerpt from The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
I remember the day it began because I was impatient for an important letter to arrive. Also, because it was meant to be the day of my engagement to Hattie Blum. And, of course, it was the day I saw him dead.
The Blums were near neighbors of my family. Hattie was the youngest and most affable of four sisters who were considered nearly the prettiest four sisters in Baltimore. Hattie and I had been acquainted from our very infancies, as we were told often enough through the years. And each time we were told how long we'd known each other, I think the words were meant also to say, "and you shall know each other evermore, depend upon it."
And in spite of such pressure as might easily have pushed us apart, even at eleven years old I became like a little husband toward my playfellow. I never made outward professions of love to Hattie, but I devoted myself to her happiness in small ways while she entertained me with her talk. There was something hushed about her voice, which often sounded to me like a lullaby.
My own nature while in society as it developed was markedly quiet and tranquil, to the degree that I was often asked at any given moment if I had only just then been stirred awake. In quieter company, though, I had the habit of turning unaccountably loquacious and even rambling in my speech. Therefore, I savored the stretches of Hattie's animated conversation. I believe I depended upon them. I felt no need to call attention to myself when I was with her; I felt happy and modest and, above all, easy.
Now, I should note that I did not know that I was expected to propose marriage on the afternoon with which we begin this narration. I was on my way to the post office from the nearby chambers of our law practice when I crossed paths with a woman of good Baltimore society, Mrs. Blum--Hattie's aunt. She pointed out immediately that the errands of retrieving waiting mail should be assigned to one of my lesser and less occupied legal clerks.
"You are a specimen, aren't you, Quentin Clark!" Mrs. Blum said. "You wander the streets when you are working, and when you're not working, you have a look upon your face as though you were!"
She was your genuine Baltimorean; she suffered no man without proper commercial interests any more than she would tolerate a girl who was not beautiful.