Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pg. 99: Matthew Pearl's "The Poe Shadow"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Matthew Pearl's The Poe Shadow.

About the novel, from the publisher:
“I present to you ... the truth about this man’s death and my life.”

Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s.

As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe’s demise, he discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin – in the form of Poe’s own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.

In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade, and the lost secrets of Poe’s final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe’s.

Following his phenomenal debut novel, The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl has once again crossed pitch-perfect literary history with innovative mystery to create a beautifully detailed, ingeniously plotted tale of suspense. Pearl’s groundbreaking research–featuring documented material never published before – opens a new window on the truth behind Poe’s demise, literary history’s most persistent enigma. The resulting novel is a publishing event that, through sublime craftsmanship, subtle wit, and devious twists, does honor to Poe himself.
Among the praise for The Poe Shadow:
"To his already prodigious command of mystery and intrigue, Matthew Pearl now adds a deeply genuine affection for and masterly insight into the life, work, and strange fate of Edgar Allan Poe; and the result is an even more compelling work than the extraordinary 'Dante Club,' one that confirms Pearl's position at the very forefront of contemporary novelists."
--Caleb Carr, bestselling author of The Alienist and The Italian Secretary

"Matthew Pearl has now created a two-book franchise on the cusp of mystery, literature and historical fiction. First he worked Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes into 'The Dante Club.' Now, in 'The Poe Shadow,' he teases a globe-trotting 19th century mystery out of this summer's most surprising 'It' guy, Edgar Allan Poe."
--Janet Maslin, CBS Sunday Morning

"Pearl takes us back to those few lost days through the inquiries of Quentin Clark, a Poe-mad young Baltimorean who is dismayed not just by the writer's death but by the press's apathetic reponse to the news... A wonderfully knowing tone... 'The Poe Shadow' is thick with intrigue and thicker still with carefully researched details... He doesn't just disinter Poe's story; he disinters the language of Poe's time."
--New York Times Book Review

"The Poe Shadow belongs firmly in the Dupin/Sherlock mold of cerebral armchair investigations revolving around detailed study of newspapers and the welcome return of inverted clue logic -- not why something is , but why it isn't . This retro-ratiocination breathes refreshing life into the genre by returning to first principles. Beneath the cloak of this well-paced detective story and its understated wit, however, is a scholarly piece of work, a meticulously researched and detailed discussion of the events surrounding Poe's death. In fact, one wonders where reality ends and fiction begins, a question that Pearl dutifully discusses in the afterword. As a period piece the book is gloriously and sumptuously detailed, and if I ever get to Baltimore in the mid-19th century, I daresay I shall not be surprised by what I find."
--Jasper Fforde, Washington Post Book World
Read an excerpt from The Poe Shadow and learn more about the book at Pearl's website.

Check out the MySpace page for Quentin Clark, the protagonist of The Poe Shadow.

Matthew Pearl is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow 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 Page 99 Test: The Poe Shadow.

--Marshal Zeringue