Length: 250 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe include ten short stories from the author who’s influenced numerous books, movies, and shows. The book includes The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Pit and the Pendulum, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains, A Descent into the Maelstrom, The Black Cat, Thou Art the Man, and Metzengenstein.
Edgar Allan Poe and his work need little introduction. Poe has been considered one of the greatest story tellers of all time, and the man who has had an influence on the genre of mystery and crime like no other. His character, C. Auguste Dupin has even been looked upon as the inspiration, in some part, for Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Poe’s work, however, doesn’t necessarily cater to everyone. His work has a darkness, a macabre feel that is often a little too much for people to take. The Ten Great Mysteries is not very different.
The first thing I would have to say is that they’re not all mysteries. Some of the stories in this book are just short stories that fall mainly in the genre of being creepy. That Poe was obsessed with the idea and supposed beauty of death is a popularly accepted thought. The stories in this book only add to that thought. A lot of the stories deal with death, the act of death, the point that comes after death, and even rebirth. Characters die in every book, so why is death such a big deal here? It’s because of the outlook. Poe looks at the very act in a manner that in unprecedented. He talks not of the fact that someone is dead or dying, but details the manner and the feelings associated with the fact. These feelings are not limited to the people witnessing the death either. In an odd way, he talks about the feelings of the person dying himself.
Added to that is the way in which he describes all of it. Poe has a way of writing that is oddly matter-of-fact, but incredibly gruesome. His description of the wail that escapes someone in agony is enough to make your hair stand up. His detailing of the manner of death is at times so plain yet descriptive that it is disturbing. I found his writing to have many contradictions, going from fancy to plain in just a few words, but no part of it breaks the flow.
One thing that was quite consistent though was the way his stories started. All of them seem to begin with a long monologue that can get a bit tedious. And yet, at some point, they snap to become really interesting and engaging. Maybe it is the fact that Poe’s work seems to be written at leisure, a commodity that is not so freely available nowadays. If you plan on reading Poe’s work, then you cannot think of rushing through it like you would a number of mystery and crime writers today. You need to take your time with it, especially given the classic lingo used.
The stories themselves were quite interesting, some more so than others. While I didn’t hate them, I didn’t exactly love them either. They were a good read, their grim nature being something I didn’t mind since I’d gone into the book expecting it. And I can see why Poe has the reputation he does, why he’s as great an influence as he is, and why he has been considered as a visionary author. He is a great storyteller, with a view into the darkness of the heart that is often hidden or ignored by so many others. Although I haven’t become a fan personally, there are aspects of his writing such as his gruesome but honest outlook on human nature that I can truly appreciate. And I think that anyone who says that they love reading need to read Poe’s work – at least once. It doesn’t matter whether you like grim or not, whether death is not your favorite topic, or whether you are put off by the blatant ending of life. Poe is not an author you want to miss, even if it just for the experience. And the Ten Great Mysteries is a good place to start.