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The Poe Shadow Hardcover – May 23, 2006
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From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Matthew Pearl's best-selling The Dante Club (2003) successfully meshed history, literature, and mystery. Though he tries to duplicate this formula and honor a great American writer, The Poe Shadow fails to garner similar interest. First, Pearl's attempt to echo 19th-century prose is fusty and verbose. Second, Clark, though he has his eccentricities, is rather "poor company" (Wall Street Journal). Third, while the subplots offer intrigue, they rarely advance the plot and never attain the macabre tone of Poe's tales. The historical context, however (though weighed down by ponderous if meticulous research), provides new insights into Poe's personal life and literary career. The verdict: for Poe (or Pearl) fans only.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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This dialog device slows the book's pace on a par with an BBC hour-length special dissecting the rhetorical maturity of Paris Hilton's speech patterns, and for over 350 pages. Much of Pearl's "action" takes place in a research library with one of the two French detectives competing to help unearth the Poe mystery.
Hints of a 1940s film, THE THIRD MAN, also dog the mystery, except there are four men on the scene at the death, not just three. Each of these men's backgrounds is traced meticulously by Pearl's lawyer, over and over again, for any clue to the real cause of Poe's death. If this repetitive verbiage sounds tedious, it is.
Finally, the love affair between the lawyer and his "Hattie" is so chaste and so remote that any interest in their ever getting together is abandoned. What Pearl wants more than any love affair is to use exclamation points when the lawyer discovers another (wrong) piece of evidence. The closest we get to intimacy is a touch on an arm or a hand; in fact, most human contact (except for some violence near the end) involves one character taking another character by the arm.
What Pearl has here might make a fairly good, imitation-Poe-short-story. There is very little suspense. There is too much old-fashioned dialog meant to be authentic. And, there is no chase through the sewers as in THE THIRD MAN to enliven the ending.
Pearl has turned a possibly exciting search into a dull courtroom drama, but without the court room until the very end. And, then, the result of that trial fizzles out in an afterward, not remotely spine tingling.
by Larry Rochelle, author of TEN MILE CREEK and BLUE ICE.
My beef is not so much with this book as with the quality of prose that seems to be becoming the norm in modern novels. It's as if there's a whole school of writers out there who learned their craft from "The Weekend Novelist."
Dan Brown is the most embarrassing of these sloppy writers -- folks who use painful clichés, reheated plot devices, and characters out of central casting to push forward what otherwise might be fairly interesting ideas. Pearl is not as atrocious a writer as Mr. Brown, but he's of the same ilk.
The thing that disturbs me is how many readers of popular writing don't seem to know or care that there's any difference between good writing and bad. Or maybe I should say between deep and shallow writing. Or between lucidity and "oh-well,-you-know-what-I-mean."
But what do I know? These guys are getting rich and famous and I'm not. Still, when you pick up, even a simple spy novel by the likes of Graham Greene or even John Le Carre, it's hard not to admire the eloquence and command of the language. It makes a book like The Poe Shadow, for all its historical interest, seem so clunky.
Most recent customer reviews
Why four stars? It is wonderfully researched and plotted.Read more