Karen Lee Street

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Karen Lee StreetEdgar Allan Poe and The London Monster (Point Blank)
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Edgar Allan Poe and The London Monster (Point Blank)

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Rezension zu "Edgar Allan Poe and The London Monster (Point Blank)" von Karen Lee Street

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Summer, 1840. Edgar Allan Poe arrives in London to meet his friend C. Auguste Dupin, in the hope that the great detective will help him solve a family mystery. For Poe has inherited a mahogany box containing sheathes of letters that implicate his grandparents in some of London's most heinous and scandalous crimes - those committed by the so-called London Monster who, for two years, terrorized the city's streets, stalking attractive, well-to-do young women, slicing their clothing and their derrieres. Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to accept that his grandparents - actors who struggled to make a living on the London stage - led a clandestine and nefarious double life, Poe and Dupin set out to prove the missives forgeries. But as they delve deeper into the city's secrets, and past horrors emerge, they start to suspect that they too are being watched and preyed upon. And if they are, might their stalkers be connected to the London Monster?

There have been some excellent mystery novels about Edgar Allan Poe. Andrew Taylor’s The American Boy or Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye come to mind, books which utilised the mystery surrounding Poe’s life in quite effective ways.

Edgar Allan Poe And The London Monster now takes Poe and partners him with his own creation Chevalier Auguste Dupin. The fictional Dupin becomes a real-life character while in the process Poe himself becomes a bit more fictional, mysterious and the Watson-like partner to Dupin’s supposedly brilliant detective.

Together they are drawn into an investigation regarding the London Monster – a real-life criminal in 18th century London – who might have a sinister connection to Poe’s grandparents.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

So what went wrong then?

I think one of the reasons this book didn’t work for me was the character of Dupin. He is not the most engaging of detectives – so cold and aloof. He has none of the charming little quirks of Sherlock Holmes. I vaguely remember reading the Dupin stories as a kid and enjoying them, but this time I found the guy to be a gigantic bore.

Then there is the style. Should we call it gothic?

I give you this random excerpt as an example:

“Thin, greenish light trickled over my face, coaxing me from insentience. An unpleasant odor permeated the atmosphere – the scent of brimstone or the perfume of decay. I tried to rouse myself but could not move for I was twisted up in a shroud, my limbs bound to my sides by the dank fabric. Fear struck like a ravenous seabird delving into flesh –dead! Dead and laid out in a sepulchre by the sea. As darkness pulled my reluctant soul toward the abyss, a terrible thrumming rose up around me – louder, louder, louder. And when the shadows had near dragged me under, it came to me that the noise echoing in my ears was the palpitations of my own heart, and I had not yet succumbed to the conqueror worm.”

We get it. It’s the 19th century. It’s Poe. People used to express themselves differently in those days, but there is very little reason to tolerate writing of this kind in our time and age, especially in a novel which claims to be a piece of entertainment.

Later there are some passages where our two investigators are examining some letters trying to determine whether they are genuine, this goes on for several pages with Dupin going over the particulars of the handwriting in excruciating detail.

Arguably there are some interesting elements to this book. Poe has been corresponding with Charles Dickens and now he hopes to meet with great man (I don’t know whether this is just made up or actually true, but I enjoyed this aspect), and during their investigations Poe and Dupin meet Madame Tussaud who would become so famous through her waxworks.

I understand that the author has put in quite a few cross-references to Poe’s original works and spotting them might be more fun than following the actual plot which moves at such a snail’s pace that occasionally I kept wondering whether I had missed something, but when I went back to reread some previous pages it turned out I had not.

Reading Edgar Allan Poe And The London Monster felt like perusing a dusty 19th century document of obscure and dry content with very little interest for people of our time. A disappointingly dull and charmless exercise.

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