Since murder mysteries and thrillers are our week’s topics, I think is advisable to seize the opportunity to pay a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), called “the father of the modern mystery”, whose 200th anniversary is being commemorated this year.
This American poet and short-stories writer is well-known as the inventor of the detective-fiction genre, ahead of other worldwide famous authors like Arthur Conan Doyle (detective Sherlock Holmes), Georges Simenon (detective Maigret), Charles Dickens (inspector Bucket) and Agatha Christie (detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple), all of them having being influenced by the author of “The Raven” and “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt”.
Poe’s detective August Dupin first appeared in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841), whose plot is the cruel murder of two women – Madame L’Espanaye, and her daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye – in an apartment in a populated street in Paris.
Since the police is unable to clarify the crimes, an amateur detective, Monsieur Dupin – a young gentleman “of an excellent, indeed of an illustrious family” reduced to poverty “by a variety of untoward events” –, is called to solve what is considered by all Paris an insoluble mystery.
Many witnesses report having heard a suspect, although they don’t agree on what language he or she, the suspect, speaks. They report having heard the voice of a German, an English, a Spaniard, a French or a Russian. Moreover, the detective finds, at the crime scene, an evidence: a hair that does not seem to be human.
Finally, and after a brilliant investigation, Monsieur Dupin solves the crime with an absolutely extraordinary explanation.
Poe’s death had place in strange and mysterious circumstances as well – he abused of alcohol –, and his own grave is surrounded in secrets and intrigues. Every year on January 19th, his birthday, and since 1949, a mysterious man steps out of the shadows at the Westminster Presbyterian Church (now Westminster Hall) – the cemetery where Poe is buried, in Baltimore – dressed completely in black, with his face covered by a scarf, stops at Poe’s grave and leaves a half-full bottle of cognac and three roses. Then, he slips away into the darkness.
This unknown man, became known as “the Poe Toaster”, because of the toast of cognac he offers Poe. Offering that, one year, was accompanied by a note, where could be read: “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.”
I suggest the reading of this short tale, claimed as the first detective story, which can be found in:
By Helga Maria Saboia Bezerra