The Murders in the Rue Morgue


Of the many omissions in my reading history, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue is one of the strangest: though it was science fiction which made me a reader, crime fiction is the genre I turn to if I wish to be entertained rather than challenged (I mean challenged as a human being, not as a solver of puzzles). Yet somehow I have managed to avoid the story which has claim to be the earliest example. This is perhaps why I find it difficult to view the story through anything other than the lens (or rather, the magnifying glass) of Sherlock Holmes, despite Doyle’s detective lagging more than forty years behind Poe’s.

Like Holmes, Dupin demonstrates his powers on his friend and narrator before a crime has been committed, seemingly reading is mind as they stroll along together:

“Dupin… this is beyond my comprehension. I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed and can scarcely credit my senses. How was it possible you should know I was thinking of – ?”

Given that Dupin professes to be hard up, one might think he could set himself up as a fortune-teller or magician, but instead he decides to solve insoluble crimes in his spare time, starting with the violent deaths of Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter. The daughter’s corpse is found stuffed in the chimney, the mother’s, with its throat cut, in the yard below. Though numerous witnesses hear voices, by the time they enter the apartment it is empty – and so we have our first locked room mystery.

Some have argued that the solution to The Murders in the Rue Morgue is ‘cheating’ as it an unlikely, though not impossible, occurrence. However, if you are simply looking to be entertained, the story works very well indeed. (I was also amused to note that Dupin resorts to placing a story in the newspaper to make a witness come forward, as Maigret does almost a hundred years later in ‘The Man in the Street’).

Also included in this slim volume is ‘The Masque of The Red Death, which is where Poe and I part company: perhaps it is an allegory of the inevitability of death, but then so is Jaws.

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9 Responses to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings Says:

    What is it with the cover artists of this book? Have they no sense? Do they think everyone already knows the solution? Ah well – I do like the Dupin stories. They really set the template for everything that came after.

    • 1streading Says:

      Yes, I must read the others.
      As for the cover, I couldn’t find the more ambiguous cover of the edition I read, and almost every other cover seemed to have the solution to the mystery emblazoned on the front!

  2. BookerTalk Says:

    Im in good company then because Ive never read this either

  3. JacquiWine Says:

    I’m pretty sure I read this when I was a teenager, but everything about it has disappeared down the memory chute! Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Emma Says:

    I read this in school, in translation. (His translator was…Charles Baudelaire. Lucky Poe and lucky us)

    I have his stories in English on the shelf now. I should get to them.

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