Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

Two women are brutally murdered in a locked flat. With the door barred from the inside how can the killer have committed such a heinous crime, then escaped without a single witness?

Widely recognised as the first modern detective story, Poe's story developed plot devices (murder in a locked room, the final deduction and revelation) and character traits (the brilliant detective, his friend and narrator) that would later be widely emulated by many authors of the genre.

Edgar Allan Poe. Source: Goodreads

Following the thought process of budding detective C. Auguste Dupin, Murders in the Rue Morgue leads the reader through the set-up of the crime, the depositions of the building's tenants, and finally the deductive reasoning that leads to the solution.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

The short story is available in its entirety for free at Project Gutenberg, PoeMuseum or ClassicLit. If you want to read on your Kindle you can download it here (send to Kindle instructions here).

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Date: 1841
Word Count: 14,000 (about 55 pages)


Despite the story beginning with a somewhat indulgent lecture on the power of analytical reasoning, Poe's text has aged well. Introducing us to many of the concepts that are now genre staples, Poe manages to disseminate his ideas clearly (the word "detective" didn't even exist at the time) while keeping the story moving. For the modern reader the text is both accessible and detailed, proving an interesting snippet into the literature of the time.

The plot takes a little while to get going, but follows Dupin as he investigates the vicious crime. While the format is now well established, Poe's description of the tenant depositions does become something of a list, with each deposition adding little to the case. His descriptions of the scene bring more life to proceedings, particularly the interesting and gruesome state of the two bodies. 

The primary criticism is the lack of clues to the identity of the murderer. Save the confusion within the witness depositions, there is little to indicate the solution prior to it being revealed at the end of the story. Poe's answer to the impossible crime is quite abstract, though is slightly more believable than later stories that use the same kind of technique.

7/10 - Well worth a read, both for its historical significance and its gruesome story.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue is available as part of the Edgar Allan Poe Complete Tales and Poems collection on Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).

1 comment:

  1. That solution scared me to death when I was younger. The idea of dying because of that because the universe went, "I don't like you today," terrified me.

    But then science happened, and I saw how ridiculous it was (though Poe can be justified considering the time period and access to the knowledge he would have had of that).