Skip to main content

Review: The Pale Blue Eye, by Louis Bayard

In The Pale Blue Eye, Augustus Landor, formerly of the New York City police force, is living near West Point, when he’s called in to investigate the death of a cadet. Having strangled to death, the cadet’s heart was later removed. Landor soon comes across a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe (he would only have been about 20 or 21 in 1830, the year this novel takes place), and enlists him to assist in the investigation. The two men find a complicated group of suspects, which leads them to believe that a satanic cult is involved.

So often, inserting a real historical person into fiction can be a recipe for disaster. Not so in this book. Bayard’s Poe is real, likeable, and convincing. He even gets some say in the narrative himself; which although I thought was a nice touch, got a little too sentimental and ho-hum when Poe began to talk about his feelings for a suspect’s sister. The ending of the novel is more than slightly bizarre, but nonetheless, this book is wonderful psychological suspense—especially since nobody is above suspicion, even Poe. Although I preferred The Black Tower, The Pale Blue Eye was an extremely likeable novel. Louis Bayard is one terrific writer.


Literary Feline said…
I am really looking forward to reading this one. Poe is such an interesting literary figure and that was what first drew my attention to the novel. I do know what you mean about it being a recipe for disaster to use a real life person in a novel. It's good to know that it worked in this case. Thank you for the great review.
Jordan said…
Glad to hear it! This is one of those books I've kind of considered reading, but wondered if it was really worth it. I'm convinced!
Sounds like an interesting read. I do have fondness for Poe.
Anonymous said…
This is good timing. I just visited Poe's grave over the weekend and became a little more interested. Maybe I'll have to check this one out.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…