A novel that brings woe to a small army of would-be Poes is Marlowe's (The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus, 1987, etc.) latest plunge into the past. But, though the tale is enhanced by liberal borrowing from its subject's gothic and macabre fantasies, artifice overshadows art in the frenzy of cloning the artist. The real Edgar Allan Poe has a place here, to be sure, as the details of his marriage to child-bride, later consumptive, cousin Virginia are recounted lavishly, along with the poet's pariah status among the literati and the alcoholic excesses that led to a days-long disappearance and death in a mental hospital. The imagined course of that final week, however, gives rise to a bewildering array of vanishing acts and parallel dimensions--a series of events in which other Edgar Allans interact with characters from Poe's fiction to conduct an international search for his missing brother Henry (dead of consumption in real life). Characters are also caught up in a mystery involving magical shards from a shattered Polynesian idol--shards worth killing because they could prevent an ancient cataclysmic event from recurring. As this drama plays out, several beautiful gray-eyed blonds in riding habits, all bearing variations of the Latin phrase noli me tangere (touch me not), provide the other Poes with ample additional complications. After failing to reverse the tragic turn of events in the imaginary realm, Poe and his femme fatale, both hospitalized and dying, reward those on the death watch with a few final mysteries before giving up the ghost. Too clever for its own good: a potentially exciting hybrid of the historical and the fantastic that ultimately self-destructs into an overly manipulated, quaintly academic exercise in parody.