A ripping, gripping investigation of the puzzling, much-debated circumstances surrounding the death of the great 19th-century writer, poet, and critic. It is all too fitting that Poe, the inventor of the detective story, should have met with an uncommon death. He was traveling from Richmond, Va., to New York when he disappeared for almost a week, turning up at last in Baltimore, blind drunk and near death. Taken to the hospital, he died a few days later, never revealing where he'd been or what had occurred. There are several commonly accepted explanations for what really happened. One holds that Poe reverted to tippling from and went on a mammoth bender. But as Edgar-winning literary detective Walsh (for Poe the Detective, not reviewed) notes, Poe had just signed a temperance pledge in order to please his new fiancÆ’e--and was traveling north to cam much-needed money. While he might not have honored the letter of his pledge, he was unlikely to fall so extravagantly off the wagon. The other, more regarded--though more incredible--explanation, cited by most biographers and even poet Harte Crane in ""The Bridge,"" is that Poe was press-ganged or ""cooped"" by villainous ward-heelers, drugged, and taken from polling booth to polling both to vote multiple times in a congressional election. Walsh handily demolishes this hypothesis as well. His own account of what transpired is a clever weaving together of many disparate strands. Unlike the solution to Poe's ""The Purloined Letter,"" the evidence here is not hidden in the open. With the little he has to work with, Walsh has to make a few assumptions, suppositions, contradictions of the records, even leaps of faith, but he is still able to build a case that is both persuasive and literarily elegant. An utterly engaging and original work of detection.