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The Pale Blue Eye

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  4,382 ratings  ·  556 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
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 23rd 2006 by Harper
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  4,382 ratings  ·  556 reviews

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Miguel Tejada-Flores
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 10, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Will Byrnes
Aug 05, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kudos to Louis Bayard for this unique and cleverly crafted murder mystery set in the early days of The US Military Academy at West Point, an unlikely setting, but not as unusual as the casting of Cadet Fourth Class Edgar Allan Poe in a lead role. Poe indeed attended West Point - albeit briefly - a historical fact which the talented Bayard uses to full advantage in spinning a tale that apes Poe's macabre, eerie, surrealist style, while at the same time capturing intrigue and enigma that could pas ...more
May 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: general-fiction
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
Oct 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,"
Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Doug Wells
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
19th Century West Point
Wonderful characters and creative story that involves cadets gone missing and then found dead with hearts cut out. On the first instance, Mr. Landor, a retired constable who lived close by was recruited by the academy to solve the death -suicide or murder?
"Sylvanus Thayer had just asked me to save the honor of the U.S. Military Academy by once more taking up the work I had sworn off for good..."
Landor asks permission to have inside help and speaks with candidates. Among t
Gorgeous, heart breaking writing?


An unreliable but completely sympathetic protagonist with Holmesein deductive skills, a tragic backstory, AND sex appeal?


An expertly described setting whose real history was revealed as a genuine and vital part of the story that I found endlessly fascinating despite having zero interest in learning anything about it before now?


A truly unlikely Watson drawn from real life with such care I had to remind myself I wasn't reading nonfiction?


May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
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
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Pale Blue Eye was pleasant and unexpected. It was a horror/mystery, a little bit of thriller, and a literary feat in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe, which was our secondary main character. Unexpected in a way where I was very surprised by the end, and I love being surprised. I don't always work to hard to guess on the whodunits throughout the story (unless they're blatantly obvious) but I don't suppose I'd have guessed this one if I'd tried. Well done, Mr. Bayard.

I love books like these,
Jo Ann
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Here's a historical fiction book (heavy, heavy, on "fictional") that I enjoyed because of the intrigue to West Point in 1830, and one of her cadets, Edgar A. Poe. A mystery by an author I enjoy!

If you wish to know more about the book, the synopsis is excellent...
Mar 31, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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).
Leah Craig
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I was about 20 pages from the end of this, and I assumed I had just read the big conclusion scene, I was disappointed in the book. I didn't think the scene fit all the build up. But then I kept reading. Hoooooly twist, Batman! In like, the last 5 pages. I loved it. I definitely don't think this is a book for everyone, but if you're into the really thick and rich 19th century style writing, you'll enjoy it.
Kelly Doyle
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
WOW! This book satisfied both my literary nerd and thriller junkie sides. In 1830, retired detective Gus Landor is called to investigate a gruesome murder at West Point, where he befriends a young Edgar Allan Poe—who is as eccentric and colorful as you might imagine. The writing in this book is incredible, especially the parts narrated by the philosophizing Poe. I found myself consulting a dictionary regularly, which made the experience all the more fun and enriching. At times, the plot was a bi ...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
Nov 20, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Aug 14, 2007 rated it liked it
THE PALE BLUE EYE (Historical-West Point, NY- 1830) – G
Bayard, Louis – Standalone
HarperCollins, 2006- Hardcover
*** Augustus Landor, a former New York City Police detective. is summoned to West Point and asked to investigate the hanging and mutilation of Cadet Louis Fry. Landor agrees to take the case but asks for the assistance of a cadet to be his “observer” within the community of cadets and West Point. The cadet his selects is somewhat older than the rest, has a somewhat mysterious past and a
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel, but I felt that it dragged a bit.

I liked Bayard's fictional representation of a young Poe during his time at West Point. It's easy to imagine the lovestruck poet/cadet of Bayard's imagination becoming the man that would one day captivate the world with his words. It's even more satisfying that this fictional Poe ends up surpassing the reader's expectations in a twist ending that I honestly didn't see coming.

Poe deserved far better accolades during his troub
Bayard's setting of West Point during its early years when Edgar Allan Poe was a cadet made for such an exceptionally fascinating mystery. Poe's poetic/literary personality was aptly captured in the written reports he presented to Landor, the retired New York police detective in charge of the murder investigation, and in Poe's interactions with Landor and others. You may think you have the mystery figured out, but it's doubtful you will see the twist coming at the end. Great reading!
Dan Adams
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this read, the fourth book by Louis Bayard I have completed. The Pale Blue Eye, in which our aged detective, Gus Landor, teams up with cadet Edgar A. Poe to solve two murders at the West Point Military Academy in year 1830, is a fine book, filled with beautiful language, haunting atmosphere, and a sense of foreboding, but the best thing, in my opinion, is getting to know the strange, but interesting, aspiring poet, Poe, who is, in the estimation of detective Landor, a hundred ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Louis Bayard!
This is the second of his novels I have read and will continue to read more!
I'm never too keen on using real life literary persons in fiction. I find that they turn out too "fluffy". (With exception to Laurie King and Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell)
Bayard's use of Edgar Allen Poe as a West Point cadet and his eventual "assistant" is very good and I didn't feel he made Poe silly or just there as a plot device.
The story is suspenseful without being overly violent or gory. And qui
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was totally clueless to the killer's identity almost to the very end. Aside from being an excellent mystery this is also a very moving story. The inclusion of a famous author as one of the key characters was an added treat.
Marc Daley
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bayard properly paints Poe as an sniveling, ungrateful man. Good twist at the end.
Sab Cornelius
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites ‎ <--- I do book blogging on the side, so posted my full review here. [Site is currently A WIP] ...more
Gayle Turner
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
A slow, but engrossing read.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this five stars even though I can't quite help feeling a bit of a cheat at the end. It seemed Mr. Bayard decided at the end who had actually done the crimes and strove mightily (and mostly successfully) to retrofit everything to suit. Even so, a marvelous read, note perfect in most ways, with some surprising grace notes, not least of which the narrator. One of Poe's last stories (really) was a piece called "Landor's Cottage." Reading it, you can almost see all the ghosts.
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
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
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A staff writer for, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post,, and Preservation, among others. Bayard lives in Washington, D.C.

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