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The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard
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The Pale Blue Eye

by Louis Bayard

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9074014,024 (3.64)70
  1. 10
    The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (hairball)
  2. 00
    The Blackest Bird: A Novel of Murder in Nineteenth-Century New York by Joel Rose (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: In the Poe genre. Not quite as well written as The Pale Blue Eye, but The Blackest Bird is still a good and interesting read.
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English (39)  French (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
A retired New York policeman is asked to quietly investigate the gruesome murder of a cadet of the West Point Academy. In order to penetrate the closed community of the school, he enlists the aid of a fourth classman by the name of Edgar Allan Poe. Together they delve into a case possibly involving devil worship.

The place and time were expertly demonstrated in the language used in the book. It was an interesting way to fictionalize the early adulthood of a famous American icon. ( )
  mamzel | Nov 12, 2017 |
The Pale Blue Eye - Bayard
Audio performance by Charles Leggett
3 stars

This story begins in early October of 1830 at West Point Academy. The body of a young cadet, an apparent suicide, goes missing. The corpse is eventually located in a mutilated state. Its heart is missing. In an effort to control a scandal, the officials of the Point engage the services of the retired, tubercular, New York City police detective, Augustus Landor. At the outset, Landor decides he needs an inside observer (a ‘spy’) to assist him. The obvious candidate is Cadet Edgar Allan Poe.

This book has much to recommend it, beginning with the interesting historical tidbit that Poe actually was a West Point Cadet before dropping out after a single year. I’ve been to West Point in the fall and the author described it beautifully. (It felt like returning for a visit. I kept getting distracted by thoughts of tailgating and football games.) The initial murder and its aftermath were sufficiently macabre to justify the use of Poe as a character. The twisty ending caught me by surprise.

I wanted this book to work for me, but it didn’t. The investigation dragged on for too long. I think it was December before the mystery wrapped up. My biggest problem was with Edgar Allan Poe. Such an annoying character, writing lengthy, egotistical letters to Landor to communicate tiny bits of information. I never felt that the developing friendship between the Detective and the Cadet was believable. It would make sense that the crimes depicted in this mystery might foreshadow Poe’s later writing, but I felt that Bayard’s use of his poetry (specifically, Lenore) was overly contrived and overdone. The story just lost me in the tedious middle, so I couldn’t get too excited by the clever,’gotcha’ ending. ( )
  msjudy | Oct 13, 2017 |
This was a quick read that got a little crazy and hard to believe at times. But then, with Edgar Allen Poe as a character, a touch of the macabre should have been expected. Not sure the plot all adds up but it was mighty fun. And it was set upstate along the Hudson River - one of my very favorite places. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
An excellent murder mystery involving West Point Military Academy, a half-drunk inspector, the occult and Edgar Allan Poe as a rogue military cadet, great stuff. ( )
  LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
Being a lover of historical murder mystery stories, I was really looking forward to reading this one. I wasn't expecting it to take me 18 days to read it, though. I was looking forward to flying through the book in 2-3 days, like I did with his wonderful 19th century French police detective Vidocq mystery The Black Tower and his interesting take on Dicken's The Christmas Carol and and adult Tiny Tim in Mr. Timothy. Bayard has shown some consistency in the stories I have read. They all have a dark undercurrent to them that oozes off the pages. Bayard is good with the atmosphere and even the character portrayals, but darn it all, he does have this habit of going too deep, delving too far into the details of his characters, setting the stage, or, in the case of this story, in losing track of whether he is creating a unique portrayal of a historical/literary figure or plotting out the story structure of the mystery at hand. I do love a well built story. The plot is tight, the setting is detailed/descriptive and the characters are for the most part well rounded, but by the mid-point of this story I was starting to groan about the slog I felt it was becoming. After some distractions in the form of other books, I came back to The Pale Blue Eye, determined to complete it. I am glad I did. The story continued to have its slogging bits but Bayard provides a very interesting conclusion and reveal that has now actually whet my appetite to go back and re-read the book all over again, with an eye for the subtle clues I did not pick up on my first read through. For straightforward mystery lovers, this book will probably drive you to frustration, until you get to the very end. For historical fiction lovers, this story may have its appeal but as the story has its schizophrenic issues of one minute being a straightforward historical fiction piece and then the next minute being a dark, brooding murder mystery piece, I struggle to find an audience that will completely love this one. After having read Dan Simmon's Drood, I can now see that the two authors share some similar story telling tricks, like talking directly to the reader - Bayard refers repeatedly to 'Reader' while Simmons, in Drood refers to 'Dear Reader' - with a focus of trying to weave complex characters into a cohesive story.

Not my favorite Bayard novel but he continues to be a writer who's works I look forward to exploring further. ( )
  lkernagh | Nov 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Bayard reinvigorates historical fiction, rendering the 19th century as if he'd witnessed it firsthand.
 
"The Pale Blue Eye" is not quite the unalloyed delight of Bayard's first Victorian thriller, "Mr. Timothy" (in part because of its melancholy setting and principal characters), but it's just as gracefully written, from its descriptions of the river, "glassy, opal-gray, crumpling into a million billows," to the author's unostentatious fidelity to the language and mores of the period.
added by jburlinson | editSalon.com, Laura Miller (Jun 19, 2006)
 
Despite all this hugely accomplished and well-observed character study, the detective story that is meant to act as a framework for the book just doesn't match up to the style and quality of the prose.
 
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Epigraph
The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. - Washington Irving "Rural Funerals"
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For A.J.
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In two or three hours...well, it's hard to tell...in three hours, surely, or at the very outside, four hours...within four hours, let us say, I'll be dead.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060733985, Paperback)

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. The next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has removed the dead man's heart. Augustus Landor—who acquired some renown in his years as a New York City police detective—is called in to discreetly investigate. It's a baffling case Landor must pursue in secret, for the scandal could do irreparable damage to the fledgling institution. But he finds help from an unexpected ally—a moody, 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 strange and haunted Southern poet for whom Landor develops a fatherly affection, is named Edgar Allan Poe.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A tale of murder and revenge set in the early days of West Point, featuring a retired New York City detective and a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe.

» see all 6 descriptions

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