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The Blackest Bird

2.92 of 5 stars 2.92  ·  rating details  ·  237 ratings  ·  44 reviews
In the sweltering New York City summer of 1841, Mary Rogers, a popular counter girl at a tobacco shop in Manhattan, is found brutally ravaged in the shallows of the Hudson River. John Colt, scion of the firearm fortune, beats his publisher to death with a hatchet. And young Irish gang leader Tommy Coleman is accused of killing his daughter, his wife, and his wife's former ...more
Hardcover, 479 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company
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(showing 1-30 of 784)
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Undine
This is one of those strange so-called "historical" novels that, in truth, has very little actual history. Most of the lead characters are completely fictitious, and the rest consist of equally fictitious characters who simply have the names of real people (such as Poe) tacked on to make the book more commercial.

I found the "Poe" character particularly irritating, as virtually nothing he does in this book (particularly his "affairs" with Mary Rogers and Fanny Osgood) bears the slightest resembla
...more
Judy
It took me a while to get into this book, which is written in a weird and abrupt style, at times imitating 19th-century newspapers. It's also very slow and at times repetitive - and it's not really a murder mystery, despite the title. But, just when I was thinking I might give up, I found myself hooked!
The novel is set in the world of 'Gangs of New York', and paints a fascinating portrait of the 19th-century underworld, centring on the real unsolved murder of Mary Rogers, the beautiful cigar gi
...more
Michelle
Very interesting historical fiction about Edgar Allan Poe and all of his relationships and maladies. I enjoyed this book immensely, but now I am afraid that I will take what I've read here and my brain will take it as fact, regurgiatitng to people who are looking at me, like huh? That's not what really happened to Edgar Allan Poe. Haha. What do you do? Maybe I'll have to read something factual and set myself straight.
Janet
The biggest mystery is how such a potentially interesting story/setting could be made so mind numbingly boring.....
Sharon
The premise here is a fascinating one: Edgar Allan Poe is littering his works with clues to the apparent murder of a local New York girl named Mary Rogers. High Constable John Hay, now in his 70s and considering leaving the job, is overseeing the case ... which drags on over several years.

Unfortunately, the text also seems to drag on far too many occasions. We are shown a great deal of the life of both New York's upper crust and its low class crime gangs. We are shown the bizarre relationship be
...more
Nicole
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marty
This novel suffered from too much action, rather than too little. There were simply too many subplots circling one another to make for a coherent novel. Starting in 1841 the plot begins with seemingly unrelated murders - of young 'segar girl' Mary Rodgers, Samuel Adams, and a Hot Corn Girl, happen within weeks of each other. High Constable of New York, Jacob Hays, is trying to close all three cases. He apprehends the accused culprits of the latter two, but Mary Rodgers murderer eludes him.

Enter
...more
Jori Richardson
I don't think I can remember dragging out my reading of a single book so long... ever. I have been working on trudging through this dismal mess of a book for three or four months now. I would pick it up every other day, read a chapter or so, and put it down.
I have read boring books before, and normally, I am still able to get through them well enough. I'm not entirely sure what it was about this one, but it inspired in me a desire NOT to read - a very unfortunate quality to possess when you are
...more
Rachel Nowakowski
I really quite liked this. Set around the same period as the "Gangs of New York" film this reaffirms how scary life in the 1800's in the new world really was. Lots of streams within the story which ultimately link up into a big ending. I do find books that focus on real historical events can be quite scary because although this vignette is the product of our authors imagination life in this period was just as gruesome and tragic as described.
Barbara Chambers
I'm learning that this is a slow way to reach a conculsion, with many paths that seem to lead no-where, I live in hopes this soon changes and it makes more sense..I have so much more to read and hating the fact that I might stop which for me is a rare occurance..

I'm now on page 135 and really it's not getting any better, I'll give it another day or two and then let it go if it doesn't improve.

I read a good way through but it just and went off at a tangent and jinked about making for very bad rea
...more
Eric
I was kinda disappointed with this one. It bills itself as a "novel of murder," so I was thinking, duh, it was a murder mystery. There is a murder, a bunch actually, but the book is more a series of episodes in the lives of certain well-known denizens of NYC in the 1840s. Which could have been interesting, but there was no real narrative tension. The book was ok, but didn't really seem to drive forward or have much of a purpose. The murder mentioned in the title is simply used as a device to dra ...more
JackieB
Aug 22, 2011 JackieB marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I stopped reading this after about 80-90 pages, so I'm not going to rate it. I didn't dislike the book, but I was feeling distant from the characters and plot. A lot of the action happened "off stage" and was reported by the narrator second-hand rather than being "observed" by the reader as an invisible onlooker. I think this is what caused me to become disengaged. If it wasn't so long, I might have carried on a little longer to see how it was when the mystery began to be resolved, but as I was ...more
Jenny
Sep 08, 2008 Jenny rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
I wish this had gone on to my abandoned shelf but my desire to know how the author would wrap up the mystery outweighed my urge to give up on the book.

Here are my problems: 1. he made up a lot of stuff as he admits in his note at the end, 2. he assumes you have prior knowledge of Edgar Allan Poe (which thankfully I did thanks to a college class I took my senior year) and 3. he switched tense to the point that it just led me to believe he's a historian first and author second.

I wish I hadn't re
...more
Louisa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Americanogig
I'm still waiting for an historical fiction concerning Poe that meets my expectations. This definitely came closer than 'The Poe Shadow' but still fell short in my eyes. Covering the murder of Mary Rogers (insipiration for the Marie Roget ratiocination story by Poe) and Homicide Colt's deed. It takes place in Tammany Hall-contolled New York and is mainly from the perspective of an old detective who supposedly the model for C. Auguste Dupin. The writing flowed easily enough, but didn't really gra ...more
Alisa
I had high hopes for this one. I love the idea of NYC historical fiction (I loved Pete Hamill's Forever and Emily Barton's Brookland), but I just couldn't get into this book. The plot is weaving and not even very interesting. None of the characters are likeable. Clever at times, probably mostly for Poe fanatics. (I caught the allusion to the first line of The Fall of the House of Usher, but others, I'm sure, went over my head.) I gave it a solid try, reading more than 300 pages into the 460+ pag ...more
Jennifer Weiss
I read this book a while back, thanks to another reading forum I browse. It was so well written and so chock full of historical facts regarding NYC earlier history. I cant explain it, but it really did capture the flavor (at least to whatever I previously knew ) of NYC in that time, and added lots of little tidbits that relate back to interesting points.
The dialogue and the actual writing truly took me back. Not to give anything away, but the Blackest Bird is a reference to the Raven. (Edgar All
...more
Meikoningin
Read it in English. Reviewed on FB.
Heidi Haskell
It was cool for what it was. But I guess I wanted a little more E. A. Poe-otherworldliness. But you can't blame a book for not being what you wanted it to be.
Elisha (lishie)
Aug 10, 2008 Elisha (lishie) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Caleb Carr
This novel was 100+ pages too long. While I enjoyed it, parts read very slow for me. Reading about Victorian NYC & parts of NJ was wonderful since I know the places very well but I felt the actual crime, the accused, far-fetched. I prefer when a story is almost entirely fiction, for the primary characters to be fictional as well and well known figures (i.e.- Edgar Allen Poe, Samuel Colt, etc.) used only as secondary characters; the opposite is true of this book.
Levent Mollamustafaoglu
Big disappointment. Joel Rose brings us to the dark world of 1840's New York and follows a murder mystery that brings our attention to the famous poet Edgar Allan Poe. However, the mystery and whodunit aspects are lost in the archaic use of language, uninteresting and long passages that are reflecting the author's knowledge of those times rather than contributing to the mystery and we are left with a bitter taste in our mouth when the book is finished.
Kori
This book was all over the place.
In the first half of the book, we read about 3 murders, 2 gang leaders, Edgar A. Poe, and the Colts.
The books central theme is about one murder and the way it is solved in 1800 New York.
I might have enjoyed this a bit more if there were not so many irrelevent side stories.
However I must say the writting was good and when the book was on point it was interesting.
Kelly
A very cool, somewhat sexy take on early New York City detective work. The city is well represented, so much so that you feel the grit in your shoes, as if you're on the trail of the prime suspect. And the prime suspect in this gruesome murder is none other than Edgar Allen Poe. This book reminded me a lot of The Alienst. I think The Alienst might be the better of the two.
Amy
I regret starting this book during an extremely busy time at my job because I am convinced that if I had given myself ample time to read large chunks of this novel I would have gotten into it much faster and appreciated it more from the beginning. That being said, I did enjoy the book and loved the use of historical figures in this fiction.

Jennifer
The author (no relation) took 18 years to write this. He put a lot of time into making the time period authentic. I liked the story and it did have a twisted ending, but what it did was cause me to go out and read more about the history of the police force in NYC as well as Edgar Allan Poe's interesting actual life.
Jim Stennett
The author says in his notes that it too him 17 years to write this book. Uh-huh. It Never can decided if it's a mystery or a historical romance. Moves in fits and starts; when it's on the mystery, it moves along fine. When it's on the 'life' of Poe it drags. I hope the Colt Family doesn't read it.
Trilby
Another opus with Poe as a character. This is a very good detective mystery, with historical characters and cases. The book gives an insight into police work in early 19th century NYC--very eye-opening. Lots of official corruption, but at least no unarmed black guy gets shot full of holes in this book.
Lori
I thought the book as a whole was Ok. I think I missed many nuances not knowing anything about 19th Century literature, especially Edgar Allan Poe. The book dragged a lot and I felt a lot of it wasn't necessary. Overall it was an easy read.
Alyssa
was not a fan of this book. i definitely struggled through it and the only reason I continued to read was because of book club. wasn't the worst book i ever read but that didn't make me like it.
Kate
really good historical novel that ties the chaos of an early nyc to edgar allen poe and a good old fashioned mysetery. it was interesting on all accounts!
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