THE MASK OF RED DEATH: An Edgar Allan Poe Mystery

Harold Schechter, Author . Random $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-345-44841-5

Set in 1845 Manhattan, veteran true-crime author Schechter's third competent Edgar Allan Poe mystery (after 1999's Nevermore and 2001's The Hum Bug ) again pairs the writer with a celebrity of the day, here legendary mountain man Kit Carson. A series of murders in which the killer scalps his prey leads an outraged populace to focus on a Native American, Chief Wolf Bear, serving as a sideshow attraction for P.T. Barnum, but Carson arrives on the scene in time to prevent a lynching and help amateur sleuth Poe and the police pick up the real trail. Poe ends up stumbling upon several corpses, including that of a mysterious albino who had sought his expertise in verifying the authenticity of a document represented to be of great historical and political significance. Schechter has improved his plotting and pacing skills since Nevermore , which teamed Poe with Davy Crockett, and he vividly depicts real-life mountain man John Johnson, a vicious Indian killer who liked to eat his victims' livers raw. Overall, though, the book's period detail, characterization and level of suspense aren't in the same class as comparable elements in Caleb Carr's The Alienist , which used a similar quest for a human monster to paint a more sophisticated picture of 19th-century New York. Agent, Loretta Barrett. (Aug. 3)

FYI: Schechter is also the author of The Serial Killer Files and seven other works of nonfiction.

Reviewed on: 05/31/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-449-00722-8
Ebook - 978-0-345-47857-3
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