EDGAR ALLAN POE AND THE EMPIRE OF THE DEAD By Karen Lee Street
Point Blank, s/b, £9.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
Edgar Allan Poe is a renowned author, author of what many believe to be the first detective story (The Murders in the Rue Morgue), and died at a tragically young age of 40. In Karen Lee Street’s re-imagining of his life, his fictional detective C. August Dupin is his friend and they solve mysteries together. While they’re not quite Holmes and Watson, their friendship runs deep, and when Poe receives a letter purporting to be from Dupin asking him to come to Paris urgently, he of course makes the long journey immediately. The letter is a fake, forged by Poe’s nemesis George Reynolds as part of a complicated plot to discredit and kill Poe, as well as an even more complex plan involving Dupin and his enemy, Ernerst Valdemar.
The reader is taken on a dark and dangerous journey through 19th century Paris, experiencing the less salubrious parts of Paris populated by villains and cutpurses aplenty, the catacombs that run beneath the City of Light, as well as gatherings of high society and the literati of Paris. The twists and turns of the plot are cunningly weaved, and Street’s expertly crafted prose and dialogue could easily have come from the pen of Poe himself.
I really enjoyed this novel, found it very easy to get into (I do sometimes find period-style writing to be difficult to warm to), and genuinely didn’t want to put it down. I found myself emotionally invested into Poe and Dupin’s battle against their respective nemeses and even though I’d not read the previous books in this series, I was able to get straight into the story. Whether you’re a fan of Poe himself, or just detective stories, this is one series to get onto your book shelf (or e-book reader of choice).