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The Poe Shadow [NOOK Book]

Overview

INCLUDES MATTHEW PEARL'S EXCLUSIVE AUDIO AFTERWORD ON THE TRUTH BEHIND POE'S DEATH!

Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. Everyone seems to accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end -- except for a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a crusade to salvage Poe's.

As Quentin explores the ...

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The Poe Shadow

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Overview

INCLUDES MATTHEW PEARL'S EXCLUSIVE AUDIO AFTERWORD ON THE TRUTH BEHIND POE'S DEATH!

Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. Everyone seems to accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end -- except for a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a crusade to salvage Poe's.

As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances and unanswered questions of Poe's demise, he realizes that he must find the one person who can help: the real-life model for Poe's brilliant fictional detective character, C. Augustine Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection. Soon Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving international political agents and the lost secrets of Poe's final hours, and must himself turn master investigator to escape Poe's grisly fate.

Drawing on original, groundbreaking research, the bestselling author of The Dante Club has once again crossed literary history with sublime craftsmanship and devious twists to create a beautifully detailed, ingeniously plotted tale of suspense.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
On the heels of his bestselling debut novel, The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl returns with an addictively page-turning historical thriller that revolves around the bizarre events surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore in 1849.

When Quentin Hobson Clark, an idealistic attorney and avid Poe fan, discovers that his favorite writer -- "our nation's literary savior" -- has mysteriously died at the age of 40 and has been unceremoniously buried, he vows to restore Poe's tarnished reputation and somehow shed light on the five days during which the author went missing on his way from Virginia to Philadelphia, ultimately turning up "cracked" in Baltimore and dying shortly thereafter. Clark soon becomes obsessed with his quest, and putting his job and his engagement in jeopardy, he travels to France in search of the real-life model for Poe's eccentric but brilliant detective, Auguste Dupin. After an extensive search throughout Paris, Clark enlists a troubled French analyst named Auguste Duponte to help solve the mystery of Poe's final days. But when others become involved in the investigation and it turns deadly, Clark realizes that he's uncovered something much more nefarious…

Genre fans who enjoy reading historical mysteries surrounding the life and death of the enigmatic master of the macabre himself (Andrew Taylor's An Unpardonable Crime, Harold Schechter's The Tell-Tale Corpse and The Mask of the Red Death, et al.) will thoroughly enjoy Pearl's The Poe Shadow -- a richly described, intricately woven, and obviously meticulously researched literary mystery that readers will remember, well, for evermore. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen
Booklist
The strange circumstances surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe, intriguing to fans and scholars alike, provide the basis for this literary historical mystery. In late 1849, Poe, traveling from his home in Virginia to Philadelphia for a lucrative editing job, went missing; however, he was found several days later, apparently drunk in a Baltimore tavern; he died after several days of delirium in a hospital and was buried unceremoniously. Press reports that Poe would be little missed so disturb Quentin Hobson Clark, a young Baltimore lawyer of independent means and a Poe admirer, that he vows to represent Poe's interests. To solve the mysterious death, Clark seeks in Paris the real-life model for Poe's fictitious detective, C. Auguste Dupin, selecting crime solver Auguste Dupont over lawyer Baron Claude Dupin. But the baron, still claiming to be Poe's model, follows Clark and Dupont to Baltimore, starting a cat-and-mouse game of detection that, because of French political implications, turns deadly. This is similar to Pearl's Dante Club (2002), which portrayed renowned authors trailing a serial killer, in its masterful blend of historical and fictional figures, meticulous research, and nineteenth-century literary style. Whether interest in Poe will make this book equally popular remains to be seen.
Globe & Mail (Canada)
"[A] remarkable novel by Matthew Pearl, whose previous book, The Dante Club, showed him to be a writer of rare talents... Pearl has constructed a masterpiece of historical mystery fiction."
The Baltimore Sun
"Pearl's narrative is distinguished by a genuine appreciation for Poe's ongoing influence... Blending scrupulous research with his own fictional flourishes, Pearl invents a young lawyer, Quentin Clark, who becomes obsessed with rescuing Poe's reputation after witnessing the author's hasty, ill-attended funeral. Neglecting both his law practice and his fiancee, Clark travels to Paris to find the detective who served as the model for Poe's Murder in the Rue Morgue sleuth, C. Auguste Dupin - the only man, Clark believes, who can solve the puzzle of Poe's untimely death. What follows is a satisfyingly Poe-like tale of psychological intrigue, villainy and murder, all dressed up in rich period detail and locution."
The Independent (London)
"As in his novel The Dante Club, Pearl is as fascinated by atmosphere as by plot. This is a book full of surprising discoveries and reversals, but also a fascinating portrait of a society closer to fracture than anyone is prepared to admit. The fog of bad faith is paralleled by the darkness where the streetlights end and by deluges that cannot wash away treachery and oppression... This is a book about Poe and his death that takes us smoothly through the evidence, theories and people. Pearl does not so much wear his research lightly as hand it over to his investigators. One of the novel's strengths is that it values intelligence, and the process of analytic thought, as much as it does the sensational moments."
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"Tangled literary tale would have pleased Poe. 'The Dante Club' was a spinoff from Pearl's senior thesis at Harvard about Dante's reputation in 19th-century America. His new novel, 'The Poe Shadow,' is similarly informed by literary research: He has dug up some intriguing facts about the death of Edgar Allan Poe and wrapped them in an intricately tangled tale... Pearl does a meticulous, finely detailed and convincing job of re-creating the texture of life in mid-19th-century Baltimore, from the herds of pigs scavenging in the streets to the tensions over slavery... Poe would have liked it."
The Spectator (London)
"The novel is a homage to its subject: Clark has many of the characteristics of Poe's protagonists - he is a man in the grip of obsession, acting under strange compulsions; a man whom neither the reader nor other characters can entirely trust; whose very existence has a dreamlike quality…The homage extends to the plot as well. In Dupin and Duponte, for example, Pearl revisits the doppelganger theme that so fascinated Poe. In terms of research, some of it original, Pearl has covered the ground with admirable thoroughness. The great advantage of this book, however, is that it will send many readers back to Poe's stories - innovative, hugely influential and as readable now as the day they were written."
Bookpage
"No one truly knows what happened to Poe in the days before his death, but Pearl's fascinating theory (which draws liberally from both fact and fiction) provides a satisfying hypothesis. The Poe Shadow is an entertaining tale of ratiocination that would make Poe himself proud."
Entertainment Weekly
"Ingenious... with a rich knowledge of Poe's life and work."
Publishers Weekly
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.
Library Journal
Mild-mannered Baltimore lawyer Quentin Clark enjoys reading stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. On hearing of Poe's sudden demise in the fall of 1849, Clark, shocked by the vilification of his beloved author in the popular press, decides to restore Poe's literary reputation. But he soon realizes that his investigation needs some professional help, and who better than the hero of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," C. Auguste Dupin, to assist? But who was the role model for Poe's fictional detective? Several candidates present themselves, and Clark is hard-pressed to deduce the identity of the real Dupin. As his obsession grows, he endangers his career, alienates his family and friends, and runs afoul of a gang of French thugs. In his second novel, Pearl (The Dante Club) 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 for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/06.]-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The still-unexplained death of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) is the subject of the Cambridge, Mass., author's follow-up to his popular debut historical thriller, The Dante Club (2003). Its premise is irresistible: an investigation by young Baltimore attorney Quentin Clark into the tragic fate of his recently deceased favorite author-to whom, furthermore, Quentin had written, precipitating a friendly correspondence heightened by Clark's impassioned "commitment to represent . . . [the] interests" of the perpetually impecunious, wrathful and doubtless alcoholic genius. Refusing to believe his idol had drunk himself to death, Quentin abandons his eternally patient fiancee, judgmental law partner and his career, traveling to Paris to seek the freelance problem-solver known to be the model for Poe's ratiocinative genius Auguste Dupin (solver of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," among other fictional enigmas). Quentin is repeatedly interrogated, sidetracked, physically assaulted and misled as he eventually encounters both a retired amateur sleuth (Auguste Duponte) uninterested in Poe's story and "special constable for the English" Baron Claude Dupin, who's rather too eager to prove that he is "the real Dupin." All three men journey to Baltimore, where the game of proving how Poe died (or was murdered) is afoot-or nearly so, in a sluggish narrative that staggers under the weight of Pearl's considerable (and just barely effectively dramatized) researches. Interesting use is made of Poe's stories and poems, and Pearl whets our interest with tantalizing clues (the whereabouts of the woman Poe was to have taken as his second wife; the man's last name he uttered on his deathbed; the reason he remained inBaltimore rather than completing a planned journey from Virginia to New York). 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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588365170
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/23/2006
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 250,377
  • File size: 638 KB

Meet the Author

Matthew Pearl
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.

To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com  

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Matthew Pearl's novels achieve the seemingly unachievable. They manage to be both informative and entertaining, utilizing historically accurate details about some very famous literary figures to fashion fictional thrillers that rival the works of Pearl's idols. While Pearl's work is indeed ambitious, he has the credentials to tackle such challenging projects that place immortals like Dante Alighieri, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Alan Poe in the middle of mysteries of his own creation. In 1997, Pearl graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude in English and American literature. He went on to teach literature and creative writing at both Harvard and Emerson College. Pearl's impressive background in literature and research provided him with the necessary tools for making history come alive in a most unique way. He is also bolstered by a genuine fascination with the theme of literary stardom. "I am very interested by literary celebrity, and both Dante and Poe experienced it in some degree," Pearl explained to litkicks.com. "Or, in Poe's case, he aimed for literary celebrity and never quite achieved it…Longfellow was more genuinely a celebrity. People would stop him in the streets, particularly in his later years. Imagine that today, a poet stopped in the streets! It was also common for writers like Longfellow to have their autographs cut out of letters and sold, or even their signatures forged and sold."

Pearl published his debut novel in 2003. The Dante Club is a small group of Harvard professors and poets (including Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes) who must track down a killer before he derails their efforts to complete the first American translation of The Divine Comedy. The novel became an international sensation. Pearl's attention to historical facts, his imagination, his vivid descriptions and fine characterizations awed critics and delighted readers. Esquire magazine chose The Dante Club as its "Big Important Book of the Month." Since its 2003 publication, it has become an international bestseller, translated into 30 languages.

Pearl followed The Dante Club with another cagey combination of historical fact and mysterious fiction. The Poe Shadow takes place during the aftermath of the death of Edgar Alan Poe. In a labyrinthine plot that would surely have made the master of the macabre proud, an attorney named Quentin Hobson Clark seeks to uncover the exact details that lead up to the peculiar death of his favorite writer. The Poe Shadow was another major feat from Matthew Pearl. If anything, it is even richer and more intriguing than its predecessor. Poe's status as a great purveyor of mystery and the mystery which Pearl conjures within his plot makes for a most provocative mixture. Critics from all corners of the globe agreed. From Entertainment Weekly to The Spectator to The Independent, The Globe and Mail, Booklist, Bookpage, and countless others, The Poe Shadow was hailed as another major achievement for Matthew Pearl. The novel has also become yet another international bestseller.

So, is Matthew Pearl heading for the kind of literary celebrity that so fascinates him? Well, Details magazine named the writer as one of its "Next Big Things," and Dan "The Da Vinci Code" Brown called him "the new shining star of literary fiction." Who knows? Maybe one day an aspiring young writer may see fit to place Matthew Pearl in the center of some fictional puzzler.

Good To Know

Pearl was placed on the 2003 edition of Boston Magazine's annual "Hot List."

His fascination with Edgar Alan Poe does not end with Poe's presence in The Poe Shadow. Pearl also edited a 2006 collection of Poe's C. Auguste Dupin mysteries titled Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales.

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Read an Excerpt

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.

This was Baltimore, and whether in fine weather or in this day's fog it was a very red-brick type of place, where the movements of the people on well-paved streets and marble steps were quick and boisterous but without gaiety. There was not much of that last quality in supply in our go-ahead city, where large houses stood elevated over a crowded trading bay. Coffee and sugar came in from South America and the West India Islands on great clipper ships, and the barrels of oysters and family flour moved out on the multiplying railway tracks toward Philadelphia and Washington. Nobody looked poor then in Baltimore, even those who were, and every other awning seemed to be a daguerreotype establishment ready to record that fact for posterity.

Mrs. Blum on this occasion smiled and took my arm as we walked through the thoroughfare. "Well, everything is quite perfectly arranged for this evening."

"This evening," I replied, trying to guess what she could be referring to. Peter Stuart, my law partner, had mentioned a supper party at the home of a mutual acquaintance. I had been thinking so much of the letter I anticipated retrieving, I had until then forgotten completely. "This evening, of course, Mrs. Blum! How I've looked forward to it."

"Do you know," she continued, "do you know, Mr. Clark, that only yesterday I heard dear Miss Hattie spoken of on Market Street"--this generation of Baltimoreans still called Baltimore Street by its former name--"yes, talked about as the loveliest unmarried beauty in all Baltimore!"

"One could argue the loveliest above all, married or not," I said.

"Well, isn't that clever!" she replied. "Oh, it won't do at all, twenty-seven and still living bachelor and--now don't interrupt, dear Quentin! A proper young man doesn't . . ."

I had trouble hearing what she said next because a loud rumble of two carriages grew behind us. "If it is a hackney approaching," I thought to myself, "I shall put her into it, and offer double the fare." But as they passed I could see both were private carriages, and the one in front was a sleek, shiny hearse. Its horses kept their heads low, as if in deference to the honorable cargo.

No one else turned to look.

Leaving behind my walking companion with a parting promise of seeing her at the evening's gathering, I found myself crossing the next avenue. A herd of swine swarmed past with belligerent shrieks, and my detour ran along Greene Street and across to Fayette, where hearse and mourning-carriage were parked together.

In a quiet burial ground there, a ceremony began and ended abruptly. I strained through the fog at the figures in attendance. It was like standing in a dream--everything blurred into silhouettes, and I swallowed down the vague feeling that I should not be there. The minister's oration sounded muffled from where I stood at the gates. The small gathering, I suppose, did not demand much effort from his voice.

It was the saddest funeral ever seen.

It was the weather. No: the mere four or five men in attendance--the minimum needed to lift an adult coffin. Or perhaps the melancholy quality came chiefly from that brisk, callous completion of the ceremony. Not even the most impoverished pauper's funeral that I had observed before this day, nor the funerals of the poor Jewish cemetery nearby, not even those exhibited such unchristian indifference. There wasn't one flower, wasn't one tear.

Afterward, I retraced my steps only to find the post office had bolted its doors. I could not know whether there was a letter waiting for me inside or not--but I returned to our office chambers and reassured myself. Soon, I'd hear more from him soon.

That evening at the social gathering, I found myself on a private stroll with Hattie Blum along a field of berries, dormant for the season but shadowed with summer remembrances of Champagne and Strawberry Parties. As ever, I could speak comfortably to Hattie.

"Our practice is awfully interesting at times," I said. "Yet I think I should like to choose the cases with more discrimination. A lawyer in ancient Rome, you know, swore never to defend a cause unless he thought it was just. We take cases if their pay is just."

"You can change your office, Quentin. It is your name and your character hanging on the shingle too, after all. Make it more like yourself, rather than make yourself more suited to it."

"Do you believe so, Miss Hattie?"

Twilight was settling and Hattie became uncharacteristically quiet, which I fear meant that I became insufferably talkative. I examined her expression but found no clues to the source of her distant bearing.

"You laughed for me," Hattie said absently, almost as though I would not hear her.

"Miss Hattie?"

She looked up at me. "I was only thinking of when we were children. Do you know at first I thought you were a fool?"

"Appreciated," I chuckled.

"My father would take my mother away during her different sicknesses, and you would come to play when my aunt was minding me. You were the only one to know just how to make me smile until my parents returned, because you were always laughing at the strangest things!" She said this wistfully, while lifting the bottom of her long skirts to avoid the muddy ground.

Later, when we were inside warming ourselves, Hattie talked quietly with her aunt, whose entire countenance had stiffened from earlier in the day. Auntie Blum asked what should be arranged for Hattie's birthday.

"It is coming, I suppose," Hattie said. "I should hardly think of it, typically, Auntie. But this year . . ." She trailed off into a cheerless hum. At supper, she hardly touched the food.

I did not like this at all. I felt myself turn into an eleven-year-old boy again, an anxious protector of the girl across the way. Hattie had been such a reliable presence in my life that any discomfort on her part upset me. Thus it was perhaps from a selfish motivation I tried to cure her mood, but at all events I did wish her to be genuinely happy.

Others of the party, like my law partner, Peter, joined in attempting to raise her spirits, and I studied each of them vigilantly in the event that one of them had been responsible for bringing Hattie Blum into a fit of blues.

Something was hindering my own role in cheering her on this day: that funeral I had seen. I cannot properly explain why, but it had thoroughly exploded my peace. I tried to call to mind a picture of it again. There had been only the four men in attendance to listen to the minister. One, taller than the others, stood toward the rear, his gaze floating off, as though the most anxious of all to be somewhere else. Then, as they came toward the road, there were their grim mouths. The faces were not known to me but also not forgotten. Only one member delayed, staying his steps regretfully, as though overhearing my private thoughts. The event seemed to speak of a terrible loss and yet to do it no honor. It was, in a word, Wrong.

Under this vague cloud of distraction, my efforts exhausted themselves without rescuing Hattie's spirits. I could only bow and express my helpless regrets in unison with the other guests when Hattie and her Auntie Blum were among the first to depart from the supper party. I was pleased when Peter suggested we bring an end to the evening, too.

"Well, Quentin? What has come over you?" Peter asked in an eruption. We were sharing a hired carriage back to our houses.

I thought to tell him of the sad funeral, but Peter would not understand why that had been occupying my mind. Then I realized by the gravity of his posture that he referred to something altogether different. "Peter," I asked, "what do you mean?"

"Did you decide not to propose to Hattie Blum this evening, after all?" he demanded with a loud exhalation.

"Propose! I?"

"She'll be twenty-three in a few weeks. For a Baltimore girl today, that is practically an old maid! Do you not love the dear girl even a little?"

"Who could not love Hattie Blum? But stay, Peter! How is it you came to assume we were to be engaged on this night? Had I ever suggested this was my design?"

"How is it I--? Do you not know as well as I do that the date today is the very same date your own parents were engaged? Had this failed to occur to you even once this evening?"

It had indeed failed to occur to me, as a matter of fact, and even being reminded of this coincidence provided little comprehension of Peter's queer assumption. He explained further that Auntie Blum had been sagely certain I would take the opportunity of this party to propose, and had thought I had even hinted such earlier in the day, and had so informed Peter and Hattie of this likelihood so they would not be surprised. I had been the unwitting, principal cause of Hattie's mysterious distress. I had been the wretch!

"When would have been a more reasonable time than tonight?" Peter continued. "An anniversary so important to you! When? It was as plain as the sun at noon-day."

"I hadn't realized . . ." I stammered.

"How couldn't you see she was waiting for you, that it is time for your future to begin? Well, here, you're home. I wish you a restful sleep. Poor Hattie is probably weeping into her pillow even now!"

"I should never wish to make her sad," I said. "I wish only that I knew what seemed to be expected from me by everyone else." Peter gruffly muttered agreement, as though I had finally struck upon my general failing.

Of course I would propose, and of course we would marry! Hattie's presence in my life had been my good fortune. I brightened whenever I saw her and, even more, whenever we were apart and I thought about her. There had been so little change all this time knowing her, I suppose it had just seemed odd to call for it now with a proposal.

"What do you think about?" Peter seemed to say with his brow as I closed the carriage door to bid him good night. I pulled the door back open.

"There was a funeral earlier," I said, deciding to try to redeem myself with some explanation. "You see, I watched it pass, and I suppose it troubled me for a reason I had not . . ." But no, I still could not find the words to justify its effects on me.

"A funeral! A stranger's funeral!" Peter cried. "Now, what in heaven does that have to do with you?"

Everything, but I did not know that then. The next morning I came down in my dressing gown and opened the newspaper to distract myself. Had I been warned, I still could not have predicted my own alarm at what I saw that made me forget my other concerns. It was a small heading on one of the inside pages that caught me. Death of Edgar A. Poe.

I would toss the newspaper aside, then would pick it up again, turning pages to read something else; then I'd read again and again that heading: Death of Edgar A. Poe. . . . the distinguished American poet, scholar, and critic in the thirty-eighth year of his age.

No! Thirty-nine, I believed, but possessed of a wisdom worth a hundred times that . . . Born in this city. No again! (How questionable it all was, even before I knew more.)

Then I noticed . . . those four words.

Died in this city.

This city? This was not telegraphed news. This had occurred here in Baltimore. The death in our own city, the burial, maybe, too. Could it be that the very funeral on Greene and Fayette . . . No! That little funeral, that unceremonious ceremony, that entombment in the narrow burial yard?

At the office that day, Peter sermonized about Hattie, but I could hardly discuss it, intrigued instead by these tidings. I sent for confirmation from the sexton, the caretaker of the burial yard. Poor Poe, he replied. Yes, Poe was gone. As I rushed to the post office to see if any letter had arrived, my thoughts revolved around what I had unknowingly witnessed.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Foreword

1. Aside from Quentin, most of the novel’s characters in this 1849 setting do not appreciate or read Edgar Allan Poe's works, and this fact in part provokes Quentin to try and rescue Poe's name. Why do you think Poe means so much to Quentin?

2. If you have read Poe, what are your thoughts about his work? Is there any author, from past or present, whom you would "fight" for as much as Quentin does for Poe?

3. In addition to serving as physical locales, Baltimore and Paris may be said to serve as "characters" in the book. What do the cities add to the novel, and what kinds of details bring alive their histories?

4. As the historical note at the back of the novel explains, the book uses authentic details about Poe's strange death. Had you heard anything about Poe's death before reading The Poe Shadow? After reading the evidence and theories throughout the novel, do you agree with all of the conclusions presented by the characters in the final chapters, or do you have any of your own theories?

5. Auguste Duponte and Baron Claude Dupin can be seen as doubles or doppelgangers, and the book discusses Poe's use of doubles in works such as "William Wilson," a tale that features two identical characters with the same names. Discuss the use of doubles and doubling in The Poe Shadow. Are there any other doubles besides Duponte and Dupin? Does Quentin have any doubles? Does Edgar Allan Poe?

6. The word "shadow" is used in many different ways in the novel. Quentin tells us, "Poe once wrote in a tale about the conflict between the substance and the shadow inside of us. The substance, what we know weshould do, and the shadow, the dangerous and giggling Imp of the Perverse, the dark knowledge of what we must or will do or secretly want. The shadow always prevails." What are possible meanings of the title The Poe Shadow?

7. If you had been in Quentin's position at the end of the novel, would you have made the information on Poe's death public, or kept it private?

8. What do you think would have happened if Quentin had met Poe before Poe died? Do you think this would have made his personal quest more or less important to him?

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Reading Group Guide

1. Aside from Quentin, most of the novel’s characters in this 1849 setting do not appreciate or read Edgar Allan Poe's works, and this fact in part provokes Quentin to try and rescue Poe's name. Why do you think Poe means so much to Quentin?

2. If you have read Poe, what are your thoughts about his work? Is there any author, from past or present, whom you would "fight" for as much as Quentin does for Poe?

3. In addition to serving as physical locales, Baltimore and Paris may be said to serve as "characters" in the book. What do the cities add to the novel, and what kinds of details bring alive their histories?

4. As the historical note at the back of the novel explains, the book uses authentic details about Poe's strange death. Had you heard anything about Poe's death before reading The Poe Shadow? After reading the evidence and theories throughout the novel, do you agree with all of the conclusions presented by the characters in the final chapters, or do you have any of your own theories?

5. Auguste Duponte and Baron Claude Dupin can be seen as doubles or doppelgangers, and the book discusses Poe's use of doubles in works such as "William Wilson," a tale that features two identical characters with the same names. Discuss the use of doubles and doubling in The Poe Shadow. Are there any other doubles besides Duponte and Dupin? Does Quentin have any doubles? Does Edgar Allan Poe?

6. The word "shadow" is used in many different ways in the novel. Quentin tells us, "Poe once wrote in a tale about the conflict between the substance and the shadow inside of us. The substance, what we know we should do, and the shadow, the dangerous and giggling Imp of the Perverse, the dark knowledge of what we must or will do or secretly want. The shadow always prevails." What are possible meanings of the title The Poe Shadow?

7. If you had been in Quentin's position at the end of the novel, would you have made the information on Poe's death public, or kept it private?

8. What do you think would have happened if Quentin had met Poe before Poe died? Do you think this would have made his personal quest more or less important to him?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(13)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(12)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 25, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Good only for illumination into Poe's demise

    I generally agree with the other reviewers here -- Matthew Pearl seems to be far more of a self-congratulatory academic than a good fiction writer, and you can tell that he has had only Ivy League law school training, for a good (i.e., practical) practicing attorney would not use such byzantine and overwrought language and plot construction to get his point across. (I guess this is what happens when academics accept you into their circle; you are in a no-lose situation, as I can't for the life of me understand how this man can teach a class in copyright law at Harvard Law School without even passing the bar.) Nevertheless, there was much fascinating information presented in this novel even for more-than-casual students of Edgar Allan Poe and the circumstances surrounding his death, which in the end made the whole reading experience ultimately fruitful. This is by far not a novel I would recommend for everyone, for many different reasons, but for those looking for a precis of the evidence to date surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe, you could read much worse.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    EXCELLENT! historical fiction written in style of the time perio

    EXCELLENT! historical fiction written in style of the time period-love those Victorians!
    very interesting explanations using known details.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    I did not like this book. It seemed slow and a little all over t

    I did not like this book. It seemed slow and a little all over the place. This is the 3rd book in my life that I never finished. The worst thing about that is that I bout it on type for a road trip. I took it out and put in an old favorite. 

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  • Posted May 2, 2011

    Would make Poe proud

    Matthew Pearl gives us a plausible explanation for Poe's missing five days. Though he spends a bit too much time in France, ultimately this became one of my favorite books on the gothic master

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  • Posted March 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The only thing you'll miss is a good nap

    The plot moved like molasses in January in Alaska. The characters are unbelievable, unlikable, and pretentious. The narrator had lost all credibility about half way through. Half of my book club didn't finish the book. Only one of us liked it. The ending is trite and unbelievable.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    "The Poe Shadow"

    The year is 1849 and Edgar Allen Poe is dead. Quentin Clark considered himself Mr. Poe's lawyer and is very upset at the manner of death and the persecution he perceived laid on Mr. Poe. Why wasn't Poe able to start the magazine he wanted? Why were so few people at his funeral and his grave left unmarked? Quentin sets off to find the "real" cause and manner of death, leaving everything important behind. His engagement and his law practice are in jeopardy. But he doesn't see it. Quentin sees nothing but his desire to clear Poe's name and reputation. He does need help however, and enlists the aid of the man he believes is a man Poe used in his stories. But, who is the real Dupin? Who wanted Poe dead? Who wants Quentin to stop looking?

    The premise of this fictional work is a good one, but I found myself bogged down with mundane things too many times. I love to read mysteries and wanted to love this one. It is good for those who love extraneous details and "stop and go" storytelling. I will look for more work by Matthew Pearl.

    My favorite quote is: '"I see," he replied knowingly and with a tone of some satisfaction. "Mr. Clark, the most dangerous temptation in life is to forget to tend to your own business -- you must learn to respect yourself enough to preserve your own interests. If pursuing the causes of others -- even in charity -- prevents your own happiness, you will be left with nothing.' pg. 220

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    A disappointment after The Dante Club

    After being mesmerized by The Dante Club, I was eager to read another literary novel by Matthew Pearl. The Poe Shadow is such a disappointment. I had to force myself to finish it. I t seems to go over and over the basic facts of Poe's death with little illumination in each retelling.
    I found the basic premise and motivation of the main character to be totally unbelievable. Quentin Clark's throwing away of his career and love life in a bizarre obsession with Poe's death is unfathomable. His travels to Paris on the most flimsy of motivations and his allegiance to one Dupin inspiration over another is incomprehensible. All adding up to a main character I could not force myself to care about.
    I haven't given up on Matthew Pearl yet, though, and will buy The Last Dickens when it comes out in paperback-only because The Dante Club was such a great read.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Pretty Good

    I fully enjoyed the book. I believe a the fact that I was already Edgae Allen Poe fan, to begin with, was a big help in liking the book! If you are a Poe fan I do reccomend it. Doesn't really teach you anything new, but it is a good fictional read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2009

    Thoughtful listening

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. But I've been interested in Poe's writing since I was very young, and thought it sounded like an interesting concept. Some parts seemed to go slowly, but the reader has a wonderful voice and was able to carry off the different characters very well.

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Painfully dull

    After forcing myself, for almost two weeks, to push through this book, I gave up. There is no plot to speak of, the main character is dull, the the writing is labored. This was a huge disappointment after The Dante Club.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I couldn't get through it....

    because I kept falling asleep! I love Poe and thought the idea for this book was very interesting and creative. I was so excited to read it, and ended up being so disappointed. I prefer Poe's supernatural and poetic works. If you enjoy his police mysteries, this work may be more appealing to you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2009

    Not what I thought but interesting...

    I am a HUGE fan of Edgar Allen Poe and this book was not what I thought it was but still interesting. It did keep my attention but not in the way I thought. I was happy I purchased this book and have even recommended it to a friend who is also a fan of Poe. Hope they enjoy it like I did!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2009

    pretty good but stilted

    that the book is good is not a question but the victorian language makes for a bit of a slow read. the characters are fairly believable but i found myself slowing down to try and keep up with parts of the story. i needed to go back and reread bits to make sense of them and found myself losing interest.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    Liked it!

    I didn't love the story, I liked it. The charaters and the plot was good. Needed more movement through the story. It seemed to drag on alittle.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Try something else

    A difficult read. I quit after 50 pages.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 26, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    I was captivated by Poe Shadow!

    The Poe shadow was a wonderful novel that took you back into a great literary era. The novel was full of intrigue and drama with a rich classical foundation. I loved it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2008

    Dragged on and on and on and on and...

    Like other reviewers, I had enjoyed Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club. I think the big thing missing from The Poe Shadow was excitement. The book plodded along and then stretched out ad nauseam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Very Disappointing

    The title interested me 'as a Poe fan' but I couldn't bring myself to finish this book in its entirety. The overwriting and scene switching made me nauseous. It gets nowhere fast and then it just drags on and on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2007

    Sophmore Slump...

    Unfortunately, this book is like a band that had an amazing first record, and then followed it up with a disappointing second one. Quoting from the reviewer below, it 'is' hard to believe this is from the same author of The Dante Club. It felt rushed, in the sense that he felt he had to get another book out. He does admit to writing this on his tour of TDC. Pearl even gave away the plot and ending of 'Murders in the Rue Morgue,' which he then has an advertisement on the reverse back cover. Too bad. I though The Dante Club was an amazing historical fiction novel and this had so much potential, but it just doesn't cut it. If you want to read a great story about Poe, read Baynard's A Pale Blue Eye.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2007

    hard work

    Reading this book is too much like work. I really had to force myself to continue to read it. I enjoy books about different eras, I learned next to nothing about Baltimore in 1850 from this book. The plot is virtually non-existant. I had to reread many passages to understand what the author was trying to convey. What a waste of time and money.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews

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