I had not heard of American author Louis Bayard, before I read this novel. 'The Pale Blue Eye' is a thriller which features the character of real life author and poet Edgar Allan Poe. It is set in 1831 when Poe was a cadet at West Point Military Academy.
The story is narrated, in the form of a testament, by Gus Landor, a former New York cop who is called in to make some investigations at the Academy, following the death of a cadet found hanging from a tree. It could be a case of suicide but the heart of the dead cadet has been removed from the body and is missing.
Landor appoints Poe as his inside informer, and Poe reports back to him, in secret, things he has discovered about some of his fellow cadets. There are more crimes committed and a group of cadets are under suspicion, even Poe appears to be a possible murderer.
The character of the narrator is complex and puzzling. His own background story unfolds gradually. Landor briefly refers to some intriguing aspects of his own life, while he is reporting events taking place at West Point.
I found the book enthralling and had to keep reading to the end. I kept changing my mind about who the killer might be, but I did have a few suspicions all along. I think there are a few clues, some of which I picked up on in the narrative, but the truth is only revealed at the very end.
I have checked the facts of Poe's biography and it is true that he attended the military academy at this time. The plot is pure fiction, but I think the author gives a realistic, and appealing, portrayal of young Poe and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good puzzling murder mystery.