Davy Crockett meets Edgar Allan Poe—and together they set out in search of Baltimore’s 1830s equivalent of John Wayne Gacy: a gothic thriller (and first hardcover fiction) from Schechter (Depraved: The Shocking Story of America’s First Serial Killer, 1994, etc.) Poe, known today mainly as macabre poet and storyteller, was in fact one of the most feared literary critics of the 19th century, so notoriously vicious in his denunciation of cant and drivel that his contemporaries nicknamed him —the tomahawk— during his tenure as editor of the prestigious Southern Literary Messenger. In 1834, he published a particularly scathing review of Davy Crockett’s memoirs, condemning the work for its vulgar sentimentality. Schechter imagines the scene that follows, in which Crockett comes to Baltimore to demand an apology from Poe—and, failing to get one, challenges him to a duel. Before Poe can oblige, however, Crockett returns home to find his landlady, Mrs. Macready, murdered in her bed, the word —NEVERMORE— spelled out in blood on the wall above her. Bizarrely united by the catastrophe, Poe and Crockett team up to find the killer. A misreading of the bloody clue at first leads them to suspect Hans Neuerdorf, a former servant of the deceased, but once they realize their mistake, they recruit him, too, for their investigation. Soon enough, as it becomes clear that the Macready case is not an isolated incident, a string of NEVERMORE murders terrorizes the whole of Baltimore. Can Poe find the killer? Well, who better for this job than the inventor of the murder mystery? Still, how many deaths will he have to solve? A clever vehicle that unfortunately bogs down in the mud of the author’s prose (—In contrast to the pleasing breadth and uniformity of the city’s main thoroughfares, the streets of this woebegone district were excessively irregular—) and on the wide plains of his predictable plot. Good atmosphere, dull story.