Russell's Reviews > The Murders in Rue Morgue

The Murders in Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
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Jun 06, 2012

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Read in May, 2012

The first recognized detective story is surprising light on the Poeisms. The beginning was very Poe-esque, but the rest of the story wasn't steeped in supernatural overtones.

The start, to me, reads more like a Rice Vampire proto-novel : "Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price; and this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen --although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visitors. Indeed the locality of our retirement had been carefully kept a secret from my own former associates; and it had been many years since Dupin had ceased to know or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves alone.
It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call it?) to be enamored of the Night for her own sake; and into this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell; giving myself up to his wild whims with a perfect abandon. The sable divinity would not herself dwell with us always; but we could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building; lighted a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams --reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm and arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford."

See? All it needs are innocent victims being mysteriously drained of blood and the main characters brooding over their fate, whispering angst to each other. But no, Poe suddenly dives off into completely new territory for his time: the detective short story, complete with the now standard follow-along-with-the-clues with a surprise ending, all done in the locked room with no (apparent) egress, solved not by the well meaning police but by a cool, analytical, if a bit unhinged, amateur sleuth as narrated by his stalwart, if a just a bit clueless and not nearly as smart, companion. Sound familiar? It wasn't when Poe first wrote it, but such luminaries as Sir Doyle and Christie created some of the most famous detectives and stories using Poe's framework.

Modern audiences will have little problem seeing the solution before the reveal simply because it's been done to death by now, and the two biggest clues stand out clearly: the unintelligible harsh or shrill voice and the extreme strength exhibited by the murderer. Of course, Poe's audience found the novelties to be baffling and quite the shocker, heaping praise on the short story. Poe, naturally, down played the accolades, after all his forte was in the macabre and psychological terrors more than the tale of Dupin solving a puzzle Poe designed for him to solve.

I rather enjoyed it, and a tip of my hat to Poe for laying the groundwork to one of my all time favorite genres, the detective novel.
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