The Murders in the Rue Morgue – Edgar Allan Poe

I ummed and ahhed about whether I should pop my thoughts on ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ by Edgar Allan Poe up on the blog to be honest as I am not normally a fan of more, erm, negative reviews. However firstly it’s a new year and maybe time for new rules, but also as long as I justify it (even if people respectfully disagree with me) why not have the occasional negative review on Savidge Reads, I hope it could give you all a fuller picture of what I like and why. So here goes, time for me to take a deep breath and have a bit of a vent…

To say that I was disappointed or underwhelmed by ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ by Edgar Allan Poe would be some what of an understatement, but stay with me as I can see why it should be read. I have always wanted to get my mitts on a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of Dupin, who is pretty much the first detective in fiction (though I am sure there are others), because I had heard that it is these tales that gave inspiration to the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie who are seen as the great masters of detective fiction in modern times, and who also happen to be two of my favourite authors. I therefore thought that I was going to love this collection.

The collection starts with the title story. From reading the first page or two I found myself thinking ‘this is going to be hard work’ as a whole three paragraph free pages about analysis of people and I think (and I say that because I was so confused, but simply could not force myself to read it again) Dupin who is the great detective that we come to learn so much more about through his accidental side kick (you can see it almost exactly retold in ‘A Study in Scarlet’ the first Holmes novel), as the pages then go on finally we get to the murder. In all of the tales of Dupin that deal with murder, for some don’t, all I can say is that nothing quite competes with the title story which is a shame as it’s the first one so everything sort of goes downhill from there.

I did find the ‘The Mystery of Marie Roget’ quite interesting as it is based on a true tale, so whilst its not as far fetched as the tale before it insightful as to how people looked at murder in the 1840’s, or sort of didn’t in a way. That brings me to the subject of when the book was written because as I mentioned this collection is seen as the start of the genre of detective fiction, which is why I was so annoyed that it read like both an instruction manual for detection and also like a deconstruction of the whole genre. In fact because so much I have read is based on this book it started to read like a lit crit book of this whole subject and I just couldn’t work with it.

You might be sat there thinking ‘but why is he not telling me about the stories in this collections. Well in truth it’s because there aren’t many. It’s much more about showing how clever Dupin, and therefore Allan Poe, is at solving a mystery and therefore things like character traits, back stories and the very atmosphere of Paris falls by the wayside and so sadly I felt disappointed in every tale. It seemed to me that ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ sadly failed for me because of its credentials. It might be the first of a genre which is now huge and I respect it for that, the thing is people read it then built on it and made something better. I’d recommend this for anyone studying the genre, not for those who want fantastic mysteries, stick to Sherlock if that’s the case but do remember who inspired those tales. 4/10

You might all think I am an imbecile (I am sure in a polite way) for having written this. I do value the novel but I think I would rather have read about it in a section of Kate Summerscale’s rather wonderful ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ or an essay about it rather than fictions which read like rather patronising essays and a how-to-write crime guide. Please tell me that his ghost stories aren’t like this!

I got this book from the local library.


Filed under Edgar Allan Poe, Review, Short Stories, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics

6 responses to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue – Edgar Allan Poe

  1. Does this volume have The Purloined Letter in it? I quite enjoyed that; can’t remember which other Dupin stories I have read.

    Poe didn’t write ghost stories, he wrote gothic ones and was master of the genre. I recommend “The Tell-Tale Heart” to determine whether you area fan of Poe in his purest form or not.

  2. Julie

    I love Poe, but not the detective stories. Another vote for ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ here, also try ‘Berenice’.

  3. Well, to start on a happy note, I do like that cover design on your edition. I am actually a fan of Poe’s Dupin and his concept of ratiocination. I see in those stories the beginnings of Holmes but unlike Doyle, Poe sketches out the whole thought process that leads to the sometime startling conclusion. Which I suppose can be tedious. But as you say, this is the beginning of detective fiction and maybe we bring our well-developed notions of the genre to Poe expecting something different than what we get?

  4. I remember loving the ‘The Purloined Letter’, but I don’t think I’ve read any of Poe’s other dectective stories. I think maybe it’s just his style that you don’t like. The tales of terror are incredible though, I reccommend ‘The Premature Burial.’

  5. One thing you’ll find when you read Poe is that many of his stories begin with a few paragraphs of introduction before you get to the story. There’s nothing wrong with skipping or skimming these. 😉

    There’s a fantastic non-fiction about the real case that inspired Poe’s Marie Roget story — The Beautiful Cigar Girl by Daniel Stashower. It talks about how Poe actually started writing the story while the real life investigation was happening. Quite good!

  6. Oh, i love Dupin! I think Poe is better at horror and suspense and atmosphere, but i have a soft spot for smart guys with big egos (Dupin, Poirot and Holmes!)

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