Posts Tagged ‘murders in the rue morgue’

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

December 5, 2016


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.