1840: Edgar Allan Poe and Auguste Dupin race to uncover the truth about a violent scandal involving Poe’s actor grandparents and a notorious London criminal in Street's debut novel.
Carrying a mysterious cache of letters that point toward a connection between the Arnolds and the Monster of London, infamous for attacking several ladies in the late 1780s, Poe travels to London to meet his most famous character, here a living, breathing, and very cerebral detective. Someone desiring revenge on the true Monster cunningly reveals more hints in the form of additional letters from time to time during the investigation. This nemesis also preys upon Poe’s emotional instability, exploiting his weaknesses and frequently sending him into a faint. Dupin, as it turns out, is also chasing an obsession in London: the identity of the man who betrayed his family during the French Revolution. The two men work together to find answers to their respective mysteries as the clock runs down, leading to a final showdown—in creepy catacombs, of course. The novel begins with an unnecessary author’s note describing its inspiration from true events, which lessens, rather than intensifies, the impact of a novel and main character whose strength must lie in imagination. The other pit into which Street falls (Poe-ish pun intended) is the difficulty of imbuing a famous artist and a beloved character with originality. Poe in particular comes across as a poor caricature of himself, overly dramatic and rather pathetic. Dupin, in contrast, begins as a one-note character but gains complexity as his past and secrets are revealed. Elizabeth and Henry Arnold, brought to life only in their letters, provide the most amusement in the tale.
A bit like the newly imagined Sherlock Holmes movies: a dose of drama, a dash of darkness, and a little bit of humor ultimately liven up the journey.