The Poe Shadow, by Matthew Pearl, is part mystery, part intrigue, part fact, part fiction, but always brilliant in the author’s desire to unearth the details surrounding the death of Edgar Allan Poe. If you like suspense mingled with twisting and turning plots, then this is the book for you!
Quentin Clarke, an admirer of Poe, is immersed in finding out the truth of the circumstances behind Poe’s death, at the risk of his own career as a lawyer. The local police seem uninterested in finding out why Poe died, or how he died. His partner laughs at him, mocks him, yet Clarke is determined to find out the facts, and ends up living and breathing every one of his waking minutes trying to encapsulate the last days of Poe’s life, and what led to his demise.
Clarke’s obsessive behavior takes him to France, where he meets a mysterious female, and two men claiming to be the “true” person that one of Poe’s characters is fashioned after.
We are given a look at 19th Century Baltimore, from its back streets to its upper echelon of society, from its slave trade to libraries and reading rooms. Pearl takes us on an adventure, both domestic and internationally. No stone is left unturned in his quest to present us a novel filled with the essence of what Baltimore was like, during that time period, from street scenes and scents, attire, transportation, mindsets, social graces, and so much more, our senses are on a constant roller coaster ride. Pearl’s vivid descriptions and images are filled with clarity.
The author combines mystery with historical fiction, bringing vivid characters through his brilliant writing and research. Pearl, himself, was trying to solve the mystery of the death of Poe, and in the end, gives us much to ponder in this intriguing mystery. Poe would be proud of Matthew Pearl’s accomplishment.
-Edgar Allan Poe is buried in the Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery, in Baltimore, MD.
-I read this a couple of years ago, and reread it, recently, for a book club I am in.