Poe Day 1: Murders in the Rue Morgue

Announcing a new endeavor! I will, for the next 27 days (not necessarily consecutively) be reading the 27 stories in The Husband's copy of COMPLETE STORIES AND POEMS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE.

Why? 'Cause I can. And, 'cause I never have read him.

This collection includes stories of humor and satire, flights and fantasies, and his poems. I expect after reading the tales of mystery and horror, I'll need a break. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

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Poe Mystery and Horror Day 1: Murder in the Rue Morgue.

Synopsis: An impossible murder has happened in the Paris neighborhood of Quartier St. Roch. Painful, wretched screams alerted neighbors, who raced to the home where two women lived. Breaking into the classic French house, all heard a voice coming from upper floors, but witness accounts differed on details. The words unintelligible, spoken in Italian or German or Russian. Racing to the fourth floor where the ladies lived, the screaming and the voice stopped. The rescuers came to a locked door and broke in. The large room had been tossed, and while there was evidence of violence but no victims, no suspects. Two women, a mother and her adult daughter, had lived in the house for years, nearly reclusively. Their interaction with the neighborhood was limited to the necessities of life--groceries, tobacco, etc. Recently, the mother had withdrawn money from the bank, a heafty sum for the day, which was delivered to the house in gold.

Searching the floor, the rescuers found the daughter stuffed up a chimney, head down. She was wedged so firmly, it took four men to pull her out. Cause of death was strangulation but the marks are her throat do not match the classic earmarking and she had a deep bruise on her abdomen. The mother was found in her rear garden, her throat sliced to the point of decapitation.

Doors to the stairway, through which the neighbors entered, had been locked from the inside. Also locked from the inside were the shutters overlooking the rear yard. The floor was searched; no one was hiding. The first three floors were empty, not being in use by the women. The gold was found in a bag on the floor. Drawers of a dresser were open with clothing pulled out.

The story is told by an unnamed narrator. The case is investigated by his housemate and very analytical friend, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. Dupin uses a connection to gain us access to the murder scene, where the bodies still remain. Methodically, he separates cause from effect to paint a solution to a mystery that has stumped the police.

For the solution...read the story. I'm not spoiling it.

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When I read a mystery (aka puzzle), I do try to solve it. I did not succeed with this one, although I came up with a solution that I think I could make work if I were writing it.

I was surprised and then greatly amused by the opening sections which goes on at some length (IMO, too much length) about the analytical minds. What amused me was how true it was of many engineers I know. The Rue Morgue was published in April, 1841 but the description could have been written today.

Knowing little about the story other than it was famous, I had mistakenly expected it to take place in a morgue. "Rue" is French for street. It seems even in 1841, morgue meant morgue, in French and English. I for one would NEVER buy a house on Dead Man Street.

When first reading Dupin, you think, "Oh, this is a Sherlock story." According to a portion of the book cover no longer attached to the book, "Poe is at the same time the father of another major branch of modern fiction: the detective story. His character, Dupin, original exponent of scientific deduction, appeared a generation before Sherlock Holmes..."

 

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