The Pale Blue Eye

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Overview

At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet's body swinging from a rope. The next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has removed the dead man's heart. Augustus Landor—who acquired some renown in his years as a New York City police detective—is called in to discreetly investigate. It's a baffling case Landor must pursue in secret, for the scandal could do irreparable damage to the fledgling institution. But he finds help from an ...

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The Pale Blue Eye

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Overview

At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet's body swinging from a rope. The next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has removed the dead man's heart. Augustus Landor—who acquired some renown in his years as a New York City police detective—is called in to discreetly investigate. It's a baffling case Landor must pursue in secret, for the scandal could do irreparable damage to the fledgling institution. But he finds help from an unexpected ally—a moody, young cadet with a penchant for drink, two volumes of poetry to his name, and a murky past that changes from telling to telling. The strange and haunted Southern poet for whom Landor develops a fatherly affection, is named Edgar Allan Poe.

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Editorial Reviews

Ada Calhoun
Bayard reinvigorates historical fiction, rendering the 19th century as if he'd witnessed it firsthand. He employs words like "caoutchouc," "meerschaums" and "anapestic" as fluently as he uses Gothic tropes. Landor is attacked in the dark woods and in a dark closet. Messengers drive phaetons. There's black magic, phrenology, a profusion of ghosts, even a boat trip through torch-lit mist. But none of it seems musty. Bayard does what all those ads for historical tourist destinations promise: as Landor says at death's door, "the past comes on with all the force of the present."
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Bayard follows Mr. Timothy (2003), which brilliantly imagined the adult life of Dickens's Tiny Tim, with another tour-de-force, an intense and gripping novel set during Edgar Allan Poe's brief time as a West Point cadet. In 1830, retired New York City detective Gus Landor is living a quiet life at his Hudson Valley cottage, tormented by an unspecified personal sorrow, when Superintendent Thayer summons him to West Point to investigate the hanging and subsequent mutilation of a cadet. Poe aids Landor by serving as an inside source into the closed world of the academy, though Poe's personal involvement with a suspect's sister complicates their work. But the pair find themselves helpless to prevent further outrages; the removal of the victims' hearts suggests that a satanic cult might be at work. This beautifully crafted thriller stands head and shoulders above other recent efforts to fictionalize Poe. 3-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Nothing is what it seems in the capable hands of novelist and book reviewer Bayard (Mr. Timothy). In the highlands of the Hudson River valley during the fall of 1831, Gus Landor, a retired New York City police detective, is called to the West Point Military Academy to assist in the investigation of a bizarre murder. After examining the first mutilated cadet, Gus realizes that he needs inside help and recruits a shadowy cadet and struggling poet named Edgar A. Poe. As the two sift through the evidence and line up suspects for questioning, more murders are committed. Between the rigors of military life and the natural mysteries of the Hudson valley, this period mystery moves methodically to the suspects, the motives, and the clues that twist and turn like the Hudson itself. The novel is further charmed by a skillful and lyrical writing style and the intrigue of West Point, now and then. A good addition for all public libraries.-Ron Samul, New London, CT Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bayard's second offering is another literary tour de force, this time featuring the young Edgar Allan Poe as a detective's assistant. Bayard has much fun with his prosy, impressionable Poe as he and former New York constable Gus Landor solve two grisly murders at West Point, circa 1830. Landor, having retired upstate for his health, is now informally recalled to service to investigate the death of Cadet Leroy Fry, found hung and with his heart surgically removed. Discretion is the word, and so needing a man inside, Landor enlists Cadet Poe to gather information, for it is certain that Fry was murdered and mutilated by a fellow cadet. Landor and Poe find evidence of Satanic sacrifice at the crime scene, and soon after, another cadet is found hung and heartless, and this time castrated, too. With classic savant-style deduction, Landor narrows the field of suspects to Artemus Marquis, a charismatic upperclassman whose father happens to be West Point's resident surgeon. It is Poe's mission to insinuate himself into the Marquis household, and in the process Poe falls gloomily in love with Artemus' creepy sister Lea. Among his less pertinent observations of the Marquis family is the curiously ardent bond Lea and Artemus enjoy. Oh well, for the only relationship that really matters is the tender one between Landor and Poe, as they cozy up on bleak winter nights to get drunk and ponder the meaning of it all, until Landor discovers the sad lies that knit together Poe's past. One imagines that much of Bayard's enjoyment came from creating a set of events that would later influence all of Poe's writing-working backward, inventing inspiration for his poems and tales. As Poe and Landor come closer totheir end, predictability begins to lessen the grand finale of fire and ice, but that end is a red herring, and the revelation in the mystery's denouement is so shocking and smart that the entire tale is turned upside down. At novel's end, the reader may want to start again from the beginning.
The Straits Times (Singapore)
“A rich and finely wrought psychological study that is a fitting tribute to Poe himself.”
Hamilton Spectator (Canada)
“This book has it all—prose, plot and a terrifying conclusion...it will have you guessing to the very end.”
Denver Rocky Mountain News
“An uncanny and original portrait. Captures the imagination with exquisite details and a compelling, disquieting story.”
Oregonian
“Poe, an exacting critic...would have been impressed by Bayard’s intelligence and fluidity as a writer.”
USA Today
“Seemlessly blends Poe into an engrossing whodunit worthy of its inspiration. ”
Providence Journal
“A superb, lyrically written yarn. Deft and delicious.”
Tucson Citizen
“Recommended. This novel is moody and rich in historic detail.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Brilliantly plotted and completely absorbing, ending with the kind of shock that few novelists are able to deliver.”
Buffalo News
“Well-wrought and suspenseful.“
Entertainment Weekly
“Ingenious...with a rich knowledge of Poe’s life and work.”
Salon.com
“Gracefully written...Bayard’s prose flows like silk, weightless but enveloping, and never shows its seams.
New York Times Book Review
“Shockingly clever and devoutly unsentimental...reads like a lost classic. Bayard reinvigorates historical fiction.”
New York Times
“Gruesomely entertaining.”
Bookreporter.com
“Worthy of...high praise.”
Memphis Commercial Appeal
“Finely executed prose…An exquisitely rendered character study, imaginatively gothic, compelling.”
Denver Post
“Full of delightfully unexpected twists that continue to the very last pages of the novel.”
Baltimore Sun
“Bayard has produced a nuanced, wonderfully written tale, one worthy of the old master himself.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“What makes this more than a well-crafted thriller…is Bayard’s gift for language. He paints incredibly vivid pictures.”
Miami Herald
“Exquisitely rendered character study, imaginatively Gothic, compelling.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780719567049
  • Publisher: Gardners Books
  • Publication date: 4/19/2007

Meet the Author

A writer, book reviewer, and the author of Mr. Timothy and The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, and Salon.com, among other media outlets. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

The Pale Blue Eye

A Novel
By Louis Bayard

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Louis Bayard
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060733977

Chapter One

Narrative of Gus Landor

My professional involvement in the West Point affair dates from the morning of October the twenty-sixth, 1830. On that day, I was taking my usual walk -- though a little later than usual -- in the hills surrounding Buttermilk Falls. I recall the weather as being Indian summer. The leaves gave off an actual heat, even the dead ones, and this heat rose through my soles and gilded the mist that banded the farmhouses. I walked alone, threading along the ribbons of hills . . . the only noises were the scraping of my boots and the bark of Dolph van Corlaer's dog and, I suppose, my own breathing, for I climbed quite high that day. I was making for the granite promontory that the locals call Shadrach's Heel, and I had just curled my arm round a poplar, preparing for the final assault, when I was met by the note of a French horn, sounding miles to the north.

A sound I'd heard before -- hard to live near the Academy and not hear it -- but that morning, it made a strange buzz in my ear. For the first time, I began to wonder about it. How could a French horn throw its sound so far?

This isn't the sort of matter that occupies me, as a rule. I wouldn't even bother you with it, but itgoes some way to showing my state of mind. On a normal day, you see, I wouldn't have been thinking about horns. I wouldn't have turned back before reaching the summit, and I wouldn't have been so slow to grasp the wheel traces.

Two ruts, each three inches deep, and a foot long. I saw them as I was wending home, but they were thrown in with everything else: an aster, a chevron of geese. The compartments leaked, as it were, one into the other, so that I only half regarded these wheel ruts, and I never (this is unlike me) followed the chain of causes and effects. Hence my surprise, yes, to breast the brow of the hill and find, in the piazza in front of my house, a phaeton with a black bay harnessed to it.

On top was a young artilleryman, but my eye, trained in the stations of rank, had already been drawn to the man leaning against the coach. In full uniform, he was -- preening as if for a portrait. Braided from head to toe in gold: gilt buttons and a gilt cord on his shako, a gilded brass handle on his sword. Outsunning the sun, that was how he appeared to me, and such was the cast of my mind that I briefly wondered if he had been made by the French horn. There was the music, after all. There was the man. A part of me, even then -- I can see this -- was relaxing, in the way that a fist slackens into its parts: fingers, a palm.

I at least had this advantage: the officer had no idea I was there. Some measure of the day's laziness had worked its way into his nerves. He leaned against the horse, he toyed with the reins, flicking them back and forth in an echo of the bay's own switching tail. Eyes half shut, head nodding on its stem. . . .

We might have gone on like this for some time -- me watching, him being watched -- had we not been interrupted by a third party. A cow. Big blowzy lashy. Coming out of a copse of sycamores, licking away a smear of clover. This cow began at once to circle the phaeton -- with rare tact -- she seemed to presume the young officer must have good reason for intruding. This same officer took a step backward as though to brace for a charge, and his hand, jittered, went straight to his sword handle. I suppose it was the possibility of slaughter (whose?) that finally jarred me into motion -- down the hill in a long waggish stride, calling as I went.

"Her name is Hagar!"

Too well trained to whirl, this officer. He depended his head toward me in brief segments, the rest of him following in due course.

"At least, she answers to that," I said. "She got here a few days after I did. Never told me her name, so I had to give her one."

He managed something like a smile. He said, "She's a fine animal, sir."

"A republican cow. Comes as she pleases, goes the same. No obligations on either side."

"Well. There you . . . it occurs to me if . . ."

"If only all females were that way, I know."

This young man was not so young as I had thought. A couple of years on the good side of forty, that was my best guess: only a decade younger than me, and still running errands. But this errand was his one sure thing. It squared him from toe to shoulder.

"You are Augustus Landor, sir?" he asked.

"I am."

"Lieutenant Meadows, at your service."

"Pleasure."

Cleared his throat -- twice, he did that. "Sir, I am here to inform you that Superintendent Thayer requests an audience with you."

"What would be the nature of this audience?" I asked.

"I'm not at liberty to say, sir."

"No, of course not. Is it of a professional order?"

"I'm not at -- "

"Then might I ask when this audience is to take place?"

"At once, sir. If you're so inclined."

I confess it. The beauty of the day was never so lucid to me as at that moment. The peculiar smokiness of the air, so rare for late October. The mist, lying in drifts across the forelands. There was a woodpecker hammering out a code on a paperbark maple. Stay.

With my walking stick, I pointed in the direction of my door. "You're sure I can't fix you up with some coffee, Lieutenant?"

"No thank you, sir."

"I've got some ham for frying, if you -- "

"No, I've eaten. Thank you."

I turned away. Took a step toward the house.

Continues...


Excerpted from The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard Copyright © 2006 by Louis Bayard. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An enjoyable tale with a surprise ending

    The story is set in 1830 at the fledgling West Point Academy. A body is found desecrated and a retired policeman is called in to investigate discreetly. Edgar Allan Poe is a secondary character in the novel. The mystery solution has been "done" before, but I didn't see it coming and it caught me by surprise - hard for a book to do these days. A pretty good book. I recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2009

    The Pale Blue Eye - Somewhat Interesting, But Too Long

    The Pale Blue Eye is an interesting story, but just too long.The main character development is good, although I am really not a Poe fan. In too much of his work, I really had a hard time understanding what Poe was trying to say. (Perhaps you need to be high while reading Poe to understand much of it, since he was high while he was writing much of it.) The ending of The Pale Blue Eye is certainly interesting; however, while the ending makes sense, there are not enough clues throughout the work to give the reader a real chance to come to that conclusion. I find this type of ending in a mystery less than satisfying. Unless you are a huge Poe fan, I would give The Pale Blue Eye an average rating at best.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    Best book I've read in a long time

    Loved it so much I ran out and bought Mr. Timothy as soon as I finished this one. Clever, well-written, and enjoyable up until the last word. Goosebumps, the whole shebang. I am buying it as a Christmas present for the avid readers in my family.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2007

    Historical Fiction at its best!!

    Cleverly written. Engaging characters. Wonderfully vivid imaging and movement that will get you to read this brilliantly written work of literary art in a weekend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2007

    Impossible To Put Down

    From the moment I read the first sentence on page one, I was hooked. The story, the writing style, the development of the characters, the pacing --all are outstanding. Other reviewers have called this book 'mesmerizing' and I could not agree more strongly. If you are looking for a book that engages your imagination from the start and holds you in it's grasp until the very last word, then The Pale Blue Eye is for you. I assure that you won't be disappointed. This is truely a great 'read'.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2007

    Edgar Allen Poe lives on!!

    The spirit of Edgar Allen Poe must be haunting Louis Bayard in his THE PALE BLUE EYE, or Bayard is some kind of a genius of the literary fiction. If that is not enough, this story pulls, leads, and spirits the 'Reader' through a nail biting mystery in 1830'3 West Point Academy with Cadet Edgar Allen Poe. The writing style oozes Poe. The atmosphere haunts the reader exactly at perfect pitch with the time and place always. The mystery twists at the end like the final turn of the knife blade in a well planned murder. The beat, beat, beat of the 'Tale Tell Heart' and the love of 'Annabelle Lee' should be written 'nevermore', but Louis Bayard breaks the rules, and the 'Reader' is the winner with Bayard's brilliant writing and story telling. THE PALE BLUE EYE is eerily memorizing!! Not to be missed by readers and book groups alike.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Very Enjoyable

    The prose was beautiful and wholly intelligent, the characters well developed and the story rich in detail and rewarding to the end. Highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    A Telling Heart

    Give Bayard great credit - he can craft beautiful worlds out of the past with just a few sticks of imagination. Pale Blue Eye might have dragged just a hair in the middle (might just could have been me) but it rode fast at the end. I'm not entirely sure I completely buy the mother character, and I had to give the ending a bit of time to grow on me, but it was all greatly enjoyable. Looking forward to more from this fine writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2011

    Excellent Read

    I really enjoyed "The Black Tower" and thought it was very good, but after reading "The Pale Blue Eye"....I couldn't put the book down. Two different narratives from two entirely different personalities - Landor and Poe.....the two characters compliment each other - one retired constable and one poet/cadet. The setting at West Point wsa a great creative way to tell the story. The ending? I've been surprised by many endings of novels, but not like this one! Totally unprepared for it!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Bayard is easily the next Charles Dickens.

    Louis Bayard writes unlike any other out there, with his layered character descriptions and ingenious imagination. Plus, in this novel, Poe couldn't be more Poe. An amazing book I'd recommend to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Anything but pale

    Let me preface this by saying that I'm not an avid reader of mystery novels in their pure "detective" form. I've read most of Sherlock Holmes. I've also read numerous "juvenile" mysteries over time (Hardy Boys and the like). I've also read numerous short stories including the "first" detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by E.A.Poe.

    That said, I'm a big fan of a good mystery that really puzzles and gets you pondering. I've also always been a good fan of Poe and the themes and tones in his stories. So, on reading the "back of the book" blurb for "The Pale Blue Eye", I knew I had to read it.

    I would heartily recommend this book to any fan of a good mystery or of late romantic or gothic era literature from the 18th and 19th centuries. The descriptions and characterizations are exquisitely presented through wonderful use of language. The intrigue and details of the mystery are very entertaining and engrossing and make for an immersive read. My one caution would be to those of a more squeemish nature. The climactic confrontation scene is a bit gruesome. I physically shuddered at one of the descriptions. It wasn't much more gruesome than something from a prime time CSI or Law & Order show, but it was definitely a bit over the top considering the rest of the novel.

    Still, if you're a fan of Poe, mysteries, or early American literature, I think you'll enjoy this dark mystery.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2009

    Off the Beaten Track

    Bought this book on a whim as I usually dislike mysteries that attempt to clumsily use a known historical personage as their detective, but that was far from the case with here.Poe is a very vivid presence, and quite believable, but it is the disillusioned old man who befriends him who is the main character of the book. The excellent writing makes this stand out as a novel that is independent of the genre and just simply a truly original read. The tone ranges from somber, to macabre to a kind of febrile humor that somehow works without straining the sense of time and place, and the plot is nothing if not tortuous.Definitely a 'tale of the grotesque and the arabesque.' Well worth a read for anyone who has ever worked their way through the works of Edgar Allen Poe, or anyone who's looking for something a little bit different from the usual cookie cutter historical mystery.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2006

    INCREDIBLE .... A MODERN DAY CLASSIC !!

    I must say that this book is one of the best I have ever read. This novel puts other top sellers of today to shame. The writing is lyrical and flows with pure beauty. It manages to bring the characters to life with a depth that is very rare and tell a story that is suspenseful with twists and turns that will have your head spinning while bringing the beauty of the written word to life at the same time. I have been a huge fan of Mr. Bayard since his early works like FOOL'S ERRAND. There has always been something special about his work - his intelligence, his true love of his characters and the display of the obvious good heart he possesses. This is a complex author who is immensely gifted. THE PALE BLUE EYE takes place in the 1800's and the writing is equal to that of the true classics. Do yourself a favor and read this special book. Something so intelligent and entertaining is hard to come by. I thank Louis Bayard for enriching my life and giving me another world to escape to for a while. I honestly believe this book is one that will always be a part of me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2006

    The Edgar Allen Poe you never knew...

    This novel, so expertly written as the narratives of two very different men, Gus Landor and Cadet Edgar Allen Poe, is nothing less than riveting. Victorian murder mysteries are seldom so compelling with an ending both surprising and logical. Gothic excellence. The sentence structure, details and terms of the time are expertly woven. The author certainly gives us a history lesson as well as entertaining the 'Reader'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2006

    Edgar Allen Poe lives on!!

    The spirit of Edgar Allen Poe must be haunting Louis Bayard in his THE PALE BLUE EYE, or Bayard is some kind of a genius of the literary fiction. If that is not enough, this story pulls, leads, and spirits the 'Reader' through a nail biting mystery in 1830'3 West Point Academy with Cadet Edgar Allen Poe. The writing style oozes Poe. The atmosphere haunts the reader exactly at perfect pitch with the time and place always. The mystery twists at the end like the final turn of the knife blade in a well planned murder. The beat, beat, beat of the 'Tale Tell Heart' and the love of 'Annabelle Lee' should be written 'nevermore', but Louis Bayard breaks the rules, and the 'Reader' is the winner with Bayard's brilliant writing and story telling. THE PALE BLUE EYE is eerily memorizing!! Not to be missed by readers and book groups alike.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Hunter

    Hi!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Dawn

    I gtg. Bbl. Bye

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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