Book Review: "Beyond Rue Morgue" (Anthology)
- by Señor Editor, 16 August 2013
Contrary to how it may seem, Sherlock Holmes was not the first literary detective. That honor belongs to Edgar Allan Poe's Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, who was a detective before the word "detective" was even invented. He was introduced in Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", but after that he proceeded to be mostly overlooked by the general readership. Now, over 170 years after his debut, the character's legacy continues, as he returns in an anthology of new stories by top tier writers titled "Beyond Rue Morgue: Further Tales of Edgar Allan Poe's First Detective".
If you're not yet familiar with C. Auguste Dupin, don't worry: "Beyond Rue Morgue" has got you covered. The original story is presented here in all its macabre splendor. It's a great read, both because of its historical significance and because Poe is certainly firing on all cylinders here. There's plentiful gore, a tight mystery and a finale of the story that'll surprise you and make you laugh at the brutal hilarity of it. It's a blast and Dupin is much more than just a "proto-Holmes". There's a lot of aspects to the character.
Even though almost every story here was a joy to read, there are definitely some standouts. Mike Carey's "The Sons of Tammany", seeing Dupin in New York, during the early stages of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, was one of my favorites. Weston Ochse's and Yvonne Navarro's "The Weight of a Dead Man" is one of the stories focusing on Dupin's descendant's and it chooses a very interesting setting, as well as manages to create a distinct new character, tied to Dupin. Clive Barker's story "New Murders in the Rue Morgue" is the only one not created specifically for this anthology (though it fits perfectly). It's an older tale, from the '80s, and it's one of the more dark and bizarre ones here.
The one story that stood out the most for me, though, was Elizabeth Massie's "From Darkness, Emerged, Returned". It's another story that uses Dupin as a point of reference, and not as a protagonist. It's the best short story I've read in a while, and it was genuinely disturbing, as well as surprising. It was oddly creepy, flipped the whole concept of a detective story on it's head, and was written so well that I'm sure Poe would be proud.
I've been saying how "most" of the stories were enjoyable here... Well, there's no story here that's BAD or poorly written, but I felt Simon Clark's "The Unfathomed Darkness" was the least interesting one, and it left me a bit cold. It didn't seem very mysterious or very Poe-like, but maybe that's just me.
Even though I obviously have my favorites, it's not an anthology that needs cherrypicking. It's an impressive project that, as far as I'm concerned, was a full success. I highly recommend getting it, no matter if you heard of Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupine before or not. It's one of the most interesting Titan Books releases in recent memory and you will be happy you got it!
You can pick up a copy of "Beyond Rue Morgue" on the Titan Books website.
Read the anthology? Planning to? Drop us a line in the comments!