Set in the 1830s a forme NYC detective is called out of retirement to solve a baffling mystery at West POint. The setting and personalities are well explained so you can see and feel the uncertainty hovering over all. The unraveling is subtle...an intriguing murder mystery with NO modern glitz and glitter, simply good old fashioned detective work.
Takes place in the 1800s with Edgar A. Poe playing an interesting, if almost clownish, role. A retired detective, Gus Landor, is called upon to solve a murder which has occured on the grounds of West Point where it happens that Poe is a student. The aging detective harbors some serious grief and mysteries within himself that will eventually be disclosed to the reader. Poe's role in this story is to be an aide and confidante to Mr. Landor. The plot is devious and has many twists and turns including a heart breaking (what else?) romance for Poe. The chief complaint that I have with this book is that it seems to go on forever. Surely it would have been a lot more exciting with less droning and more action.
But many consider this a superb example of good mystery writing. So who am I to dispute them? Nevertheless I am only giving it three stars for the above mentioned reasons.
Cover: 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 unheard of in a harsh regimen like West Point's but the next morning, and even greater horror comes to light. Someone has stolen into the room where the body lay and removed the heart.
At a loss for answers and desperate to avoid any negative publicity, the Academy calls on the services of a local civilian, Augustus Landor, a former police detective who acquired some renown during his years in NYC before retiring to the Hudson Highlands for his health. Now a widower, and restless in his seclusion, Landor agrees to take on the case. As he questions the dead man's acquaintances, he finds an eager assistant in a moody, intriguing young cadet with a penchant for drink, two volumes of poetry to his name, and a murky past that changes from telling to telling. The cadet's name? Edgar Allan Poe.
Impressed with Poe's astute powers of observation, Landor is conviced that the poet may prove useful-if he can stay sober long enough-to put his keen reasoning skills to the task. Working in close contact, the two men-separated by years but alike in intelligence-develop a surprisingly deep rapport as their investigation takes them into a hidden world of secret societies, ritual sacrifices and more bodies. Soon, howerver, the macabre murders and Landor's own buried secrets threaten to tear the two men and their newly formed friendship apart.
This book will leaving you guessing till the end. I thought I had it figured out but I was in for a big surprise. Enjoyed story.
Wonderful. Bayard does a great job fictionalizing a young Edgar Allan Poe and writes with a real sense for his time period. The ending was rather clever, although the early chapters setting the scene are really the best parts of the novel. Bayard writes a nice literary mystery.