From Publishers Weekly
The author of Edgar winner Teller of Tales
now recounts the story of Manhattan tobacco store clerk Mary Rogers, a mysterious beauty whose posse of admirers made her a minor celebrity in 1841 in various newspapers' society pages. The discovery that year of her mutilated corpse fueled a public outcry and a newspaper circulation war, as well as a fictional magazine serial by Edgar Allan Poe featuring his famous detective Dupin speculating on the murder of working-class Parisian "Marie Rogêt." Poe rightly deduced that Mary wasn't a victim of the gang violence that plagued New York City in the absence of an effective police presence. But he came late to the accepted theory that Mary had died of a botched abortion and had to tweak his final installment to maintain his and Dupin's reputations. Although Stashower's account bogs down in comparisons of Poe's revisions of the Rogêt manuscript, it's a generally absorbing account of the birth of the modern detective story. The sordid details of Mary Rogers's stunted life pale in comparison with Poe's own love-starved childhood, self-destructive tidal wave of alcoholism, poverty and rants against publishers and rivals; Poe's genius and literary legacy are hauntingly drawn here. (Oct. 5)
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Mystery novelist Stashower, who won a nonfiction Edgar for Teller of Tales
(1999), a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, returns to his historical roots in this examination of a celebrated murder in 1840s New York City that turned Edgar Allan Poe into an amateur sleuth. The text ably weaves the story of a young woman, celebrated for her beauty and her untimely death, with that of Poe, whose poems and stories often celebrated the deaths of young, beautiful women. Mary Rogers worked behind the counter of a cigar store in Manhattan in 1841; she was so beautiful that the store was jammed with her admirers. On July 28, 1831, three days after Rogers had gone missing, her body was found floating in the Hudson. The press seized on her murder, but the New York police force (depicted by Stashower as completely disorganized) failed to find her killer. One year later, Poe (just after the success of his detective Dupin in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue") proposed to his publisher that he investigate this famous cold case. Although Stashower works a bit hard to invest this murder with multiple levels of significance, it remains an intriguing story, one that sheds considerable light on the snares of a big city for a young woman. Expect this book to attract readers who were entranced by The Devil in the White City
(2003), another account of crime in the nineteenth century. Connie FletcherCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved