The Poe Shadow is Matthew Pearl's second novel. The story starts with the death of Edgar Allan Poe. It is based on the author's extensive research and knowledge of Poe's work. He uses actual letters and newspaper reports, from the time of Poe's death, and the following years. The cause of death has never been fully established, and Poe's exact whereabouts during his final days remain unknown.
Like the author of this book, I find it very sad that, at the time, Poe's death was attributed to his drinking and he was portrayed in the press simply as a no-good drunk who had written some macabre stories and poetry.
The narrator of the story, Quentin Clark, is a young man obsessed with discovering the truth about the death of Edgar Allan Poe, and I think it was also a very real obsession for the author of this book. Several possible theories are investigated by various characters in the story, and they all compete in trying to be the first to reveal the truth, or their version of the truth, while Poe's fictional detective, Dupin, has a strong influence.
For Quentin, the fictional hero of this book, there is a conflict of interest between love for his childhood sweetheart and his obsession with Poe, which leads him into danger and despair. Quentin is also strongly attracted to another young woman who is involved in some dubious activities, and she plays a significant part in his adventures.
I enjoyed Pearl's descriptions of nineteenth century Baltimore and Paris. The historic details seem quite authentic, and I think the fictional characters speak and behave very much as real people might have done in those cities at that time.
Pearl writes very much in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, mixing horror, mystery and melodrama in the plot. I found it an exciting read. This book really took me back in time and into some thrilling adventures, and I think the author Matthew Pearl mixes fact and fiction extremely well.