|About the Book|
In these first five stories about Poes detective Auguste Dupin, he establishes many of the traditions or motifs we know from classic detective fiction. The eccentric but brilliant detective who solves the mystery merely by analysing the facts from his armchair, the mystery of how a murder was committed in a closed room, laying a false trail with false clues or red herrings for the reader to follow are just three of his original tropes, which are now so familiar that they are almost cliches.On its publication, the first story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue was highly praised for its inventiveness and new style of storytelling. A murder was committed on the fourth floor, the windows were closed from the inside, the chimney was too narrow for even a cat to get through, so how did the murderer escape? Such a clever conundrum had never before been presented to readers, implicitly inviting them to solve the mystery. Interestingly, Poe also establishes the convention of the bumbling policeman, who is outwitted by Dupin, in this story. However Poe is sometimes criticised for the twist ending, which nobody could reasonably be expected to imagine. The ending of this story is a metaphor for brains against brawn. Perhaps Poe preferred to sacrifice the burgeoning rationality and method of analysis by his character Dupin, in order to make this metaphor more explicit, to make the reader aware that the intellect will always win over violence.The second story The Mystery of Marie Roget is a lesser story about Dupin. It is subtitled as its sequel, but is a bit of a disappointment after the brilliant conception of The Murders in the Rue Morgue.Poe described his third story, The Purloined Letter as perhaps the best of my tales of ratiocination. In other words he was deliberately inventing a detective who used his powers of reasoning, who made conscious deliberate inferences in order to arrive at valid and rational conclusions. Dupin also recognises the importance of reading and the written word as evidence. By such descriptions in the narrative, the reader can follow Dupins thoughts and reasoning and reach the conclusion for themselves. The answers to the mysteries are all there, but only a clever person can see them.The Gold Bug is yet another fascinating departure - an extremely readable story about the Secret Service involving the use of cyphers.In the fifth story Thou Art the Man red herrings abound, and the guilty party is perhaps the most least likely suspect. This is yet another literary device which is well used and popular in contemporary mystery fiction.It is worth remembering that the word detective did not exist at the time when Poe wrote The Murders in the Rue Morgue. He established the prototype of Dupin even before Arthur Conan Doyles Sherlock Holmes. It is easy to criticise a work in retrospect, but these early stories paved the way for a genre which is one of the most popular even today.