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Disquiet Heart: A Thriller Hardcover – May 20, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Atmospheric and cleverly researched, this shaky sequel to Silvis's well-received On Night's Shore (2001), which introduced precocious street urchin Augie Dubbins and his mystery-solving sidekick, Edgar A. Poe, takes time to build up a head of steam, in large part because the narrator, at age 17 and no longer an engaging waif, dwells too long on his career shift from farmhand to budding journalist. In early 1847, Poe and Augie find themselves the guests of Dr. Alfred Brunrichter, a Poe admirer who has lured the celebrated author to Pittsburgh, Pa., with promises of a remunerative speaking tour. In the event, the good doctor keeps Poe so drugged, or sloshed with claret, that he stumbles through his various readings and lectures. Envious of all the attention lavished on Poe, Augie attempts to establish his own writing career while courting a young teacher's assistant. Poe, whose dear consumptive child-wife has recently gone to her grave, jerks awake for brief marionette cameos that are just intriguing enough to make one wish he were telling the story rather than Augie, whose Victorian posturings on life slow the story to a snail's pace. (Reprints of two of Augie's articles drag the proceedings further.) When Poe finally assumes center stage after Augie becomes the prime suspect in a murder case, the plot picks up and races to a sparkling denouement. Poe's haunting ghost, alas, is not enough to rescue a basically flat, overwrought narrative that invokes some of the mystery of Poe's stories but none of their majesty.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Set in 1847, seven years after the events portrayed in the well-received On Night's Shore (2000), this worthy follow-up again places Edgar Allan Poe in circumstances where his familiarity with the dark side of human nature comes in handy. Poe's wife has just died, and he and his protege, narrator Augie Dubbins, are visiting Pittsburgh at the invitation of a fan, Dr. Brunrichter, who takes an oddly intense interest in Poe's writings, ideas, and especially in his health. Poe seems more and more listless and vacant the longer he stays, and the doctor seems determined to take over as Poe's preferred companion. Meanwhile, young women are disappearing from the streets of Pittsburgh, but it is not until tragedy affects them directly that Augie and Poe begin to question the goodness of the good Dr. Brunrichter. Silvis sensitively depicts human emotion here, particularly Poe's grief and the deep bond between Poe and Augie. Careful historical details and appropriately nineteenth-century-style prose also help to bring this extremely creepy thriller to vivid life. Carrie Bissey
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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When Poe and Dubbins arrive at their host's mansion, they are stunned as Brunrichter looks like Edgar's twin. The doctor wants Poe and his cohort to investigate the disappearance of several women in the last month or so. As Brunrichter keeps Poe in a virtual state of stupor with ether, Dubbins begins a search for the lost ladies. However, when Dubbins is accused of murder, Poe shakes off the daze to start his own inquiries including into that of his benefactor.
Though well written, DISQUIET HEART is radically different in mood and tone than the superb ON NIGHT'S SHORE. The sleuthing by Poe and Dubbins comes late in the tale, as the novel is more a historical fiction than a mystery. Instead readers glimpse a depressed pessimistic Poe spiraling into addiction. Still, the story line grips the audience as the atmosphere of 1847 Pittsburgh and Philadelphia vividly seems real through the actions of Poe and Dubbins. Though very gloomy, readers will appreciate Randall Silvis' latest tell tale Poe adventure.
What kills this novel (pardon the pun) is it's pacing; quite frankly, it is brutally slow, like watching paint dry. The first 200 pages, approximately 2/3 of the book, serve as nothing more than backdrop, painstakingly detailing Poe's physical/psychological collapse; a collapse, mind you, that has nothing to do with the book's resolution. I would have understood had the psychological section of the novel dovetailed with the thriller portion and/or provided insights concerning the mystery of the disappearing women. However, there really isn't much connectivity between the two parts.
In a futile attempt to maintain the reader's interest, the narrator frequently alludes to imminent disaster. As each reference has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the chest, and Silvis constantly repeats these warnings, apparently unaware that his readers will probably remember things that are mentioned after, oh, about, 100 times, by the time the actual disaster comes about, I was irritated and past caring.
This is a rather obvious whodunit. The reader is constantly two steps ahead of the purported sleuths. Strangely, ostensibly important clues that are intimated earlier in the book, such as Augie's sequence where he is not sure whether he is dreaming, are later totally ignored by our enterprising duo when putting the clues together. The book had me wondering whether Silvis was deliberately trying to insult the pair's intelligence.
Having paid a mere $5 for the book (in hardcover, no less) at my local book superstore, I really can't say I was swindled out of my money. After all, as the old adage goes, `you get what you paid for.' Nevertheless, I was still disappointed, particularly in light of Silvis' reputation as an intriguing storyteller.