Tony's Mystery Pick

Edgar Allan Poe Investigates Murder Most Foul at West Point

Jacket for "The Pale Blue Eye"Recommended for fans of: Literary Thrillers, Historical Mysteries, Edgar Allan Poe, Unreliable Narrators

I'm a frequent visitor to the "Newest Audiobook Additions" section of the downloadable media area of the library's Web site. I'm always looking for something good to listen to while doing the dishes/laundry/weeding/etc. There's nothing like a ripping yarn to take your mind off the stack of greasy plates or soiled toddler clothes in front of you. A fine example of such diverting listening is The Pale Blue Eye (also available as a book from the library), which revolves around the seven months Edgar Allen Poe spent at the West Point military academy in 1830-31, and a series of crimes that occur while he is there.

August Landor, A former New York policeman who's retired to the countryside for his health, is taken to the academy and asked by the commandant to investigate a gruesome murder. As he is burdened by the recent death of his wife and elopement of his daughter, he has no demands on his time and accepts the assignment. Landor throws himself into the investigation, eventually enlisting cadet Poe as his eyes and ears on the ground.

The story is thick with atmosphere, as Bayard channels the heavy, oppressive tone of Poe's darkest work. Having Poe act as a sidekick is a nifty gimmick, as his highly mannered speech and writing make for colorful breaks from the gloom and doom that otherwise pervade the story. I can't say much more without spoiling things, but the book has a twist ending that yanks the rug out from under the reader and suddenly reveals Poe's presence in the book as not just a fun gimmick, but a critical element.