The Poe Shadow
Matthew Pearl. Simon & Schuster Audio, $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7435-5265-3
Pearl's second historical thriller involving literary figures (after 2003's The Dante Club) is set in 1849, when young lawyer Quentin Clark's desire to burnish the tarnished reputation of his favorite author-poet, the recently deceased Edgar Allan Poe, drives him to such extremes he eventually winds up on trial for insanity and murder. His defense forms the novel. Singer provides Clark with a splendidly appropriate voice: young, intelligent, yet naïve and idealistic. He's also adept at capturing the attorney's shifting moods, from his indignation at journalists' shoddy sendoff of Poe (labeling him a debaucher and drunk) to an increasing obsession as he puts his practice and his impending marriage on hold, ocean-hopping to Europe to seek the aid of the real-life model for Poe's genius-sleuth, C. Auguste Dupin. Some listeners may raise an eyebrow at Singer's use of fractured French for one of the Dupins and an equally arch British accent for the other. They should be reminded that all of the characters are being filtered through the sensibilities (and vocal capabilities) of a not terribly sophisticated Baltimore barrister. Simultaneous release with Random House hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 13).
Reviewed on: 05/01/2006