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The Pale Blue Eye
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The Pale Blue Eye

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  2,890 ratings  ·  408 reviews

From the critically acclaimed author of Mr. Timothy comes an ingenious tale of murder and revenge, featuring a retired New York City detective and a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe.

At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet's body swinging from a rope just off the parade grounds. An apparent suicide is not

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Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published (first published May 23rd 2006)
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Punk
Mystery. This was going to get four stars, right up until twenty pages from the end, at which point it seriously pissed me off.

Augustus Landor, retired New York constable, recounts his involvement in a murder investigation that takes place at West Point in 1830. Guest starring Edgar Allan Poe. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 387 pages of this novel. It's a nice little mystery with a hint of the supernatural and lots of cold West Point atmosphere. Bayard is an engaging writer. His prose is clear a...more
Tim
You can't swing a dead cat these days without hitting a book with historical characters in a fictional setting. And I swing a lot of dead cats, believe me.

When it's done well, though, who cares how many of them there are? And Louis Bayard does it well. Fresh off his fine "Mr. Timothy," his look at Dickens' Tiny Tim as an adult (OK, so Tiny Tim wasn’t historical, but you get the idea), Bayard threw Edgar Allan Poe into a novel. No, he’s not the first (or last) to do this, but "The Pale Blue Eye,"...more
Jenifer
Audio. There are many well-written reviews of this book on Goodreads. I loved reading the reviews and seeing why people liked this book. I just didn't like it that well. I haven't read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe and although I understand that the language in this book was supposed to be indicative of his style, it was just too wordy and flowery for me. It dragged in too many places and the fun parts were few and far between. It would have been better for me had it all been more like this;

"Oh, Leah...more
Doug
I find myself on a Louis Bayard binge. I quite enjoyed The Black Tower, and just finished this one and was impressed as well. In the historical fiction crime mystery genre (which I often find myself gravitating towards a la Matthew Pearl and Caleb Carr), these are excellent. The Pale Blue Eye includes a young Edgar Allen Poe during his short time at West Point. Always read to the very last page with Bayard.
Miguel Tejada-Flores
This book may not be for everyone. But if you are a lover of words - and in particular, the rich complex 19th Century literary (and often poetic) style of Edgar Allan Poe, this book is a treat. Yes, it's a mystery - with multiple gruesome and bloody deaths and murders at its heart - but more than that, it's an exploration of complex and dark characters, human beings....and exploration of the darkside of the psyche. The book has a slow pace - almost measured - and it takes its time developing the...more
John
I would have given this book 4.5 stars if possible. I have recently read Louis Bayard's more recent book The Black Tower and enjoyed it tremendously. However, I think this previous offering is even better.

To be honest, initially, the early 19th century, Poe-esque language was a bit cumbersome - but that is fault of me the reader, not the story itself. Once I became more comfortable navigating the verbiage, I came to appreciate the character and complexity of the writing. In the end, the style a...more
Quillracer
Retired detective Gus Landor is brought to West Point to investigate the hanging death of a cadet and the theft of his heart. To assist in his investigation, he drafts a cadet by the name of Edgar Allen Poe.

Bayard writes using language and sentence structure appropriate for the time setting of this novel (1830), so his prose is more ‘flowery’ than the norm today and loaded with metaphors (“to find the snowflakes still spilling like hoarded coins from the sky’s cloud-purses” as example of both)....more
Nancyc
The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard is, like the writings of one of his characters, a tale of mystery and imagination. Set at West Point in the 19th Century, the novel has all the flavor and ambiance befitting such a setting. I love reading books that fictionalize real people. Bayard fictionalizes the leadership of West Point at that time, as well as one of the most eccentric writers in American history.

The chief investigator of this mystery/detective novel enlists one Cadet Edgar Allen Poe to ass...more
Alexander Inglis
Louis Bayard has written an extraordinary novel in The Pale Blue Eye. Ostensibly, it's a work of historical fiction: the US West Point Academy, on the banks of the Hudson River, and the cadets who toiled there in 1830 are leading characters; Edgar Allan Poe, a cadet that year; Sylvanus Thayer, the commander; Gouverneur Kemble, arms manufacturer; these and other real life figures take roles in this purely fictional murder mystery. It is largely told by Gus Landor, a retired constable from New Yor...more
Chris
Let me preface this by saying that I'm not an avid reader of mystery novels in their pure "detective" form. I've read most of Sherlock Holmes. I've also read numerous "juvenile" mysteries over time (Hardy Boys and the like). I've also read numerous short stories including the "first" detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by E.A.Poe.

That said, I'm a big fan of a good mystery that really puzzles and gets you pondering. I've also always been a good fan of Poe and the themes and tones in...more
Lowed
Dec 05, 2010 Lowed rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like mystery
I don't know what to say.. Haha! Sorry, that seemed like a bad start for a review. And this book even took me a while to finish. Okay here goes;

Louis Bayard is not Umberto Eco, who i have liked a lot after reading The Name of the Rose. However, there is something in The Pale Blue Eye that makes you want to scratch your eye out Or maybe just pull your hair off (as this should be less painful). Surely this wasn't the MOST amazing detective story and I would have to agree with some who had reviewed...more
Sarah
Again he sprang up...and again he faltered. Why, I couldn't tell you. Was it the difference in our sizes? (I could have laid him flat, I suppose, if I'd had a mind to.) More likely it was the difference in our power, which is another thing altogether. There comes a time, I think, in every man's life when he is forced to see his utter helplessness. He spends his last penny on a drink, or the woman he loves sweeps her plate clean of him, or he learns that the man he has trusted with everything wis...more
Free
I liked this so much more than I thought I would!

Well written - well that is a given, if you have read the other reviews.

An EXCELLENT mystery, right up there with the genre's best mysteries ever.

A great main character - I was genuinely intrigued by Augustus Landor. I liked him, I wanted to know more about him, and his characterisation was great.

I have to address the Poe aspect, of course. Funnily enough this was why I intially held back from reading the book. I expected the book to be very much...more
Sandie
During the hours before his death, Augustus Langor, retired former NYC detective and widower recalls the circumstances surrounding his investigation of the gruesome murder of a cadet at West Point. The year is 1830 and the institution had not yet earned the reputation it enjoys today so the powers that be engage his services in an attempt to avoid any negative publicity. During his investigation he enlists the help of Cadet Edgar Allan Poe to be his eyes and ears on campus, holding clandestine m...more
Gerund
Some historical figures are so eccentric they seem as if they've stepped out of the pages of fiction; Edgar Allan Poe, creator of some of literature's most fantastical characters, is certainly one of them. Born to impoverished actors, addicted to alcohol and gambling, and dead at 40 of still disputed causes, it was just a matter of time before another writer plucked the man who is credited with inventing the detective story (The Murder in the Rue Morgue) from the dryness of historical fact, and...more
Anima Miejska
Well, Reader, rating this book put me in a lot of trouble. Much depends on what you are looking for in the read. If your prime choice is language, which is flowery, original to the era and full of sofisticated stanzas, alas some historical characters and settings mingled with the fictious context, then this read is definitely for you, and I hurry to admit that I missrated it. But if, by no means you cannot stand too long descriptions, deliberately detailed analysis of poetry and human condition...more
Jodi
I'd give it 2.5 stars if I could, because this book left me feeling very torn.

In brief, West Point cadet Edgar Allan Poe helps solve a murder mystery with a retired New York detective. Someone is killing cadets and removing their hearts. The author has done a good job in capturing Poe & his time period, as well as the language used.

But the ending left me cold. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a "twist" ending very much....heck, that's why I watch Law & Order. And I don't read a lot of myste...more
Mary
Louis Bayard is a consummate, critically acclaimed writer of literary historical novels - and The Pale Blue Eye adds to that high level of achievement by also being a murder mystery! PLUS - a young, very odd, very eccentric, and ultimately very likeable Edgar Allen Poe is one of the main characters. Set during Poe's 1-2 year "training" at a barely established West Point (c. 1830), Poe is commandeered to help a retired NYC detective (Augustus Landon) to infiltrate the close ranks of West Point ca...more
Jodi Cassell
Louis is an incredible writer who blends to works of famed authors like Poe, Shakespeare,and Dickens with his work. It's an incredible new genre that he may have created himself? I am in awe of his creativity and brilliant writing. Very beautiful writing style as well without being over the top. I agree with another reviewer below that this may not be for everyone, but I find it to be an intriguing and refreshingly unique style. Try it - you may find that you are hooked like me!

On a fun side nig...more
Badseedgirl
Sometimes all I want as a reader is a good whodunit mystery. I found that and more with Louis Bayard’s wonderful sophomore novel The Pale Blue Eye. Set in Upstate New York, specifically The West Point Military Academy. After the apparent suicide and then the subsequence disappearance of the body, the military calls in retired NYC police detective Gus Landor. What follows is a traditional mystery novel with all the usuals, an abundance of possible suspects, additional murders, and the like. With...more
Jonathan Smith
While I wasn't as immediately captivated as I was by Bayer's more recent Roosevelt's Beast, I found this a compelling and fascinating read. Again mining rich historical personages and settings to explore the more literary edges of genre fiction, Bayer's story captivated me as it exploited the questionable reliability of its various narrators. Although not completely novel, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself questioning not only whether I trusted the narrator, but why: was it a failing mem...more
Nancy
This is a mystery about the death of a cadet at the US Military Academy in 1830. Also enrolled in West Point at the time was Fourth Classman Edgar Allen Poe. Retired investigator, Gus Landor, is hired to uncover the truth of what happened to the victim, both to bring about his death and to explain the disappearance of his heart, after death. As the death toll rises, Landor and Poe struggle to get to the bottom of what's really happening at West Point.
I found this book hard to get into. I stuck t...more
Will Byrnes
When retired constable Gus Landor is summoned out of his upstate New York retirement to investigate a strange death at the not-yet-permanent West Point, he encounters a charismatic, brilliant cadet named Edgar Allen Poe. The two team up to solve the mystery, using the techniques the estimable Mr. Poe would apply in helping establish the murder mystery genre. Bayard is up to his usual tricks here, delving into literary history for characters and notions and coming up with a rollicking good time....more
Heidi
Louis Bayard's specialty is writing mysteries featuring historical personages (and, in the case of "Mr. Timothy" a character from a famous book)and both novels I have read so far (this one and "The Black Tower") have been intriguing, well written, seeped in the mood of their era, and in the end... just a little disappointing. Disappointing because their potential was so great that their shortcomings are all the more of a letdown. "The Black Tower" fell short in its ending; "The Pale Blue Eye" fa...more
Elizabeth
The setting is 19th cent. America, and retired New York City Police Detective Agustus Landor is called in to discreetly investigate a cadet that has apparently hanged himself on the premises of the newly installed West Point Acadamy. The case is complicated by further cercumstances, the body is found the next day to have had its heart removed.
Landor finds a strange ally in his investigation in the form of Cadet Poe, who ads an element that is everything one might associate with Poe. Instilling i...more
Emma B
I think this has been sitting on my shelf for a year and a half, my mom having given it to me to read that long ago. I just forgot, and didn't.

Great book. The switching between the narrators was fantastic, and their voices were so distinct - or, should I say, Poe's voice was so distinct. The author easily stepped into his florid, descriptive style. Sometimes, I could've sworn I was actually reading Poe.

The story was also nicely fast-paced and eventful - no long lags in the action that took work...more
Callie
Reading this for book club as a part of the Big Read NH program, which is featuring Edgar Allan Poe this year. Poe is a major character in this novel.

A detective murder mystery that takes place at West Point in 1830, featuring a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe who is tasked with secretly assisting a former NYC detective (who narrates) with solving a murder. An interesting concept, a fun ending, however many of the characters (specifically Poe) were fluffy and one-dimensional.

Another complaint-...more
Jenny
The Pale Blue Eye took me several chapters to really get into it. I almost gave up on it and indeed let it lay for many weeks untouched before I decided that I just had to finish it. I have this thing for leaving tasks uncompleted, it makes me crazy unless it’s really something VERY unpleasant (like A Lion Among Men). I am so glad that I pushed myself to finish this book! Once we reached the introduction of my favorite part of the book and whom I would argue is the main character even though he’...more
Caroline Herbert
An entertaining trifle -- a historical fiction/mystery taking place at West Point in the early 19th century, in the early days of the Academy's founding. The main conceit of the book is that Edgar Allan Poe is a central character, the action taking place during the brief time in which he was a cadet. It is a very imaginative premise, and through the author's creation of the young Poe (way before he wrote the stories for which he is known today) we can see the foreshadowing of his later career (a...more
Melissa
Once again I am disappointed by a Poe-themed novel. I can't say it was awful, but I was forced to question my rationale in continuing to read the book much more frequently than one should to say I liked it.

Set at West Point Academy during Poe's short stint there, the story tells of a retired NYC police detective who is called in to investigate the suspicious death of one of the cadets. The narrator enlists the assistance of a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe, and in the process of solving the c...more
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A staff writer for Salon.com, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Nerve.com, and Preservation, among others. Bayard lives in Washington, D.C.
More about Louis Bayard...
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“Well, as to that, all I'll say is, you can't take out a fellow's heart before he's ready to give it up.” 3 likes
“I'm a solitary sort, I get chaffed by too many elbows.” 1 likes
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