Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe

Available as 11 pages in quite small type here.

I am 98% sure that I was led to this story by a mention in Judith Flanders’s The Invention of Murder. I’m always up for some Poe; he’s batting 1000 with me. I have a complete works volume on my shelves somewhere; maybe one of these days…

I’m pretty sure the reason I came to this story from the above book is that it is cited as one of the earliest mystery stories in literature, that is, in which a detective (in this case an amateur) puzzles through the clues to come to a conclusion of whodunit. It begins with a fairly lengthy (several long paragraphs) discussion of analytical powers, in which our narrator argues that whist or draughts are both more challenging intellectual games than chess. [I am not familiar with whist or draughts so can’t comment on that.] The point of all this rather cerebral discussion finally becomes clear: the narrator’s roommate, a Frenchman named Dupin, is an analytical genius. He can tell what the narrator is thinking. And he will solve… The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

by Daniel Urrabieta y Vierge [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (click to enlarge)

illustration by Daniel Urrabieta y Vierge, via Wikimedia Commons (click to enlarge)

In a tone and a climate I recognize from The Invention of Murder, we learn that a mother and daughter have been brutally killed in their home on the Rue Morgue. All the doors are locked from within, and a very large amount of cash has been left behind, spilled on the floor. The Parisian police are stumped. Dupin, however, reasons through what clues he finds – having been allowed special access to the crime scene, naturally – and comes to a very strange and improbable, but correct, conclusion. Occam’s Razor aside.

The strengths of this short story, as always with Poe, lie in its atmosphere: brooding, dark, melancholy, cerebral. The character of Dupin is not well-rounded or human, but that’s okay. He plays a role. Our narrator is there, Watson-style, to provide a foil for Dupin’s analysis. The solution to the mystery is most strange and enjoyable for its strangeness. Realism this is not.

An enjoyable quick read and a good early example of a genre I love. Well worth a few minutes.

Rating: 8 thick tresses of grey human hair.

3 Responses

  1. So the murderer turns out to be some wild chimpanzee that escapes from the zoo? Didn’t see that one coming. 😛

  2. […] superior brains, in particular of the narrator’s host, Dupin, who we have met before (see the Murders in the Rue Morgue). A lady has lost a letter that will get her in great trouble if her husband finds out about it; […]

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