The Pale Blue Eye: A Novel

The Pale Blue Eye: A Novel

by Louis Bayard

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Overview

The Pale Blue Eye: A Novel by Louis Bayard

From the critically acclaimed author of Mr. Timothy comes an ingenious tale of murder and revenge, featuring a retired New York City detective and a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe.

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 just off the parade grounds. An apparent suicide is not unheard of in a harsh regimen like West Point's, but the next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has stolen into the room where the body lay and removed the heart.

At a loss for answers and desperate to avoid any negative publicity, the Academy calls on the services of a local civilian, Augustus Landor, a former police detective who acquired some renown during his years in New York City before retiring to the Hudson Highlands for his health. Now a widower, and restless in his seclusion, Landor agrees to take on the case. As he questions the dead man's acquaintances, he finds an eager assistant in a moody, intriguing 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 cadet's name? Edgar Allan Poe.

Impressed with Poe's astute powers of observation, Landor is convinced that the poet may prove useful—if he can stay sober long enough to put his keen reasoning skills to the task. Working in close contact, the two men—separated by years but alike in intelligence—develop a surprisingly deep rapport as their investigation takes them into a hidden world of secret societies, ritual sacrifices, and more bodies. Soon, however, the macabre murders and Landor's own buried secrets threaten to tear the two men and their newly formed friendship apart.

A rich tapestry of fine prose and intricately detailed characters, The Pale Blue Eye transports readers into a labyrinth of the unknown that will leave them guessing until the very end.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060733988
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/12/2007
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 378,190
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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.

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.

Customer Reviews

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Pale Blue Eye 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
KirstyHaining More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'.
Adaptoid More than 1 year ago
The prose was beautiful and wholly intelligent, the characters well developed and the story rich in detail and rewarding to the end. Highly recommend.
Preserved-Killick More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!!
Galina More than 1 year ago
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.
magggs More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My fav book by this author
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theokester More than 1 year ago
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.