Monday, May 23, 2011

The Poe Shadow (2006) Matthew Pearl

The Poe Shadow is a novel by Matthew Pearl published by Random House. It tells the story of one young lawyer's quest to solve the mystery of Edgar Allan Poe's death in 1849. It is a work of historical and literary fiction, where some previously unpublished details about the last days of Poe are conveyed through the thoughts and the actions of the main character, along with the generally shared ideas on Poe's death as of the publication date.

Plot summary

Baltimore lawyer Quentin Hobson Clark witnesses a somber, simple funeral on October 8, 1849. He learns it was for author Edgar Allan Poe, with whom he had previously exchanged letters about providing legal support for a new publication, The Stylus. Clark feels obliged to look into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe's death, despite protests from his fiancee Hattie Blum and his friend Peter. Clark's journey takes him to Paris to seek out the real-life inspiration for Poe's character C. Auguste Dupin, a man of intellect who could help unravel the mystery. After investigating many possibilities of the inspiration of Poe's detective. A Baron C.A. Dupin, a famed lawyer in Paris, and a lone detective with a similar name: Auguste Duponte. After a confrontational encounter with the Baron Dupin and his aid, Bonjour, Clark realizes that the Baron is not quite the character as described in the detective stories of Poe and that Auguste Duponte, with his approach to problem-solving with Ratiocination, was the real inspired character in the stories. They journey back to Baltimore to investigate the final days of Poe before his death, only to find that the Baron and Bonjour have been on the same track, if not ahead, of solving the same investigation. Evidence is uncovered from interviews of the funeral attendants, witnesses, and secret rummaging of Henry Reynolds, a funeral attendant, who obtained a written letter from Poe the day he was found in the streets of Baltimore. What other mysteries that unfold through the odyssey of Clark to clear Poe's name from infamy continue on to a shocking and sorrowful conclusion of the death of the most important Gothic Fiction writer of American Literature.

Matthew Pearl is an American novelist and educator. His novels, The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow and The Last Dickens, have been New York Times Bestsellers, International Bestsellers, and have been published in more than 40 countries.


Matthew Pearl graduated from University School of Nova Southeastern University (NSU). He was then educated at Harvard College and Yale Law School and has taught writing and literature at Emerson College and Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Dante Club was published in 2003. His second novel, a historical thriller about the death of Edgar Allan Poe called The Poe Shadow, was published by Random House in the United States on May 23, 2006 and has also been a New York Times Bestseller and an International Bestseller. His third novel The Last Dickens was released in the United States on March 17, 2009. Pearl has also written op-ed articles on literature and culture for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe.

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