Cover Image: A Mystery of Mysteries

A Mystery of Mysteries

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I get the impression this is best for Poe die hards, though I also wonder how much new information it contains. The chapters are slanted towards Poe's life as opposed to the mysterious circumstances of his death, and those chapters are organized by years. As a result, they take on the quality of a list (this happened, then this happened, then this happened) without greater narrative or organizing effect. Dawidziak's embrace of our inability to know all the facts as well as his acknowledgment that myth often reshapes our relationship to the truth are admirable. But does it lead to a satisfying book? One could debate...

Was this review helpful?

I have to admit something. I have never read anything by Edgar Allen Poe. I know, I know, where have I been as a classics reader? I will say that I am very interested in reading his work after reading this biography. I knew nothing (except his young wife) as I started reading but I was invested quickly. I was fascinated with his childhood, writing career, and how his reputation was created. It was incredible to learn about and reflect upon. This is an excellent biography that is well worth the read.

I received an arc via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

Was this review helpful?

DNF @20%

I love Edgar Allan Poe [his stories AND his poetry and I am not really a poetry lover; I had a teacher in HS that spent a month teaching nothing but the works of EAP and it was amazing] and was so excited to read this; unfortunately this just didn't work for me. It was so dry and boring and jumped around a LOT and I just could not get into it. I am very disappointed because I really was hoping to learn more about EAP, but this was just to dry and textbooky to continue.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I was really looking forward to reading this as I have enjoyed Poe's work and looked forward to learning more about him as a person. However, while there is a lot of detail about his life here, it is presented in a disjointed way, jumping back and forth in time, and not really making a whole lot of sense in some instances. So, while the content gives the appearance of being very well-researched, I don't know that I really learned a lot because I was confused by the presentation of the information.

In the advance review copy I received, for whatever reason too, the footnote references were all put after the first word of the quoted material, which is incorrect per CMOS 14.26, and very distracting.

Thank you, Mark Dawidziak, St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an advance review copy.

Rating: 2.5/5 rounded up

Was this review helpful?

A wonderful read to those who are interested in learning about the man behind the myth. The author through fascinating and impeccable research has fleshed out and dare I say, humanized ‘Edgar’ in a refreshing manner.

Not written chronologically but instead geographically as Poe lives, loves and moves from state to state as his need for work ensues.

I loved discovering that Poe and Charles Dickens met face to face during one of his tours of the United States.

My only disappointment was the chapters dealing with how Poe died. Nothing surprising but overall a terrific read.

Was this review helpful?

A MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES, The Death and Life of Edgar Allen Poe by Mark Dawidziak is a new biography of an American Treasure.

Biographies are not my usual choice for fun reads, but I when I saw this title, I thought it would be a good time to learn more about the famed Edgar Allan Poe. Come to find out, I am among the masses that loved the works he wrote, but didn't give enough credit to the man behind the caricature. In a dual timeline fashion, Dawidziak takes the reader from the mysterious moments right before Poe's death, back in time to follow his steps into fame and misfortune.

I enjoyed the format of this biography, as it gave a bit of the mystery of his death the feel of suspense as I traveled along his life's path. I learned quite a bit about him and his complicated personality. I wonder how he would be perceived today! I can definitely understand why he had social troubles after reading this and it makes his story even more fascinating to me. The final chapter does seem to offer some ideas on the final mystery of E.A. Poe, but also acknowledges the joy, or even need, to keep it a true mystery.

Many thanks to @NetGalley and @stmartinspress for this digital ARC. This book is available now and anyone with a curiosity of Poe should absolutely pick up this easy to read biography!

Was this review helpful?

A very interesting read and learned quite a bit about Edgar Allan Poe. This book was Intriguing, interesting, and familiar but yet many surprises as you read on. Definitely gave me the mysterious feeling.

Was this review helpful?

In this illuminating biography, Mark Dawidziak pays homage to the Gothic nature of Poe's work, while also shedding full light on this masterful poet and architect of American literature.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you, St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for giving me an ARC of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own.

When I saw that this book was coming out, I just had to request it.  I have been interested in Poe and his works since I was in high school.  I have read/watched a some takes on Poe's life, and I have to say this one seems to me the most interesting and most researched one that I have seen yet.  The author talks about having to dig deeper than just the new paper columns after his death to see the real Poe.  Most of what we think of as fact is just what rival columnists wrote after his passing, which is a shame. Yes, Poe had issues, however he is not the depressed morbid picture we are painted by most media today.  

As much as I enjoyed this take on Poe, I only had one thing that threw me off, and that was how the chapters jumped back and forth between different times in his life.  I know that is done for a reason, but it was hard sometimes to switch gears back and forth. 

If you have ever wanted to know more about Poe, this is the book to pick up!

Was this review helpful?

Summary:
This is a nonfiction book, both biography of Edgar Allan Poe and an investigation into his untimely death under mysterious circumstances. The author has taken great pains through research and interviews to cut through the misinformation and popular myths that surround Mr. Poe. The extensive bibliography, list of interviews and documentation of the notes included at the end would be very useful to those interested in reading further.
Review:
By the time I finished reading the book, my rating increased to 5 stars. I'm a reader who didn't know a lot about Poe. I think my first brush with one of his stories was in second grade when a friend's big sister read The Tell-Tale Heart to us -- it terrified us! In his short life he was a poet, a critic, an editor, a humor writer, the father of the literary detective, and also the horror stories that remain very popular long after his rivals have faded from public knowledge. Edgar Allan Poe's work seems even more well suited to our current time than it was to his lifetime.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an arc to read for review!
#MysteryofMysteries #Mark Dawidziak

Was this review helpful?

A MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES: THE DEATH AND LIFE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE was a riveting piece of nonfiction that compellingly disentangles the myths about Poe’s life and death. While we might never know the truth about how or why he died, the author paints a compelling case for one top theory and why other theories can be debunked.

The author uses a somewhat unconventional format interweaving the last three months of Poe’s life with the broader story of his life. I must admit this switching back and forth through time was rather confusing, especially when it comes to the women in Poe’s life. Nevertheless, I think the author’s sources and conclusions are extremely strong and I really enjoyed learning more about Poe.

Pop culture has portrayed Poe as this perpetually morose, unhinged genius who was either murdered or drank himself to death. The real Poe is so much more nuanced than this and Dawidziak helpfully dispels the common misconceptions about his life and personality.

When I started this book I knew almost nothing about Poe, but now I feel like I have a three-dimensional view of him as a flawed but fascinating human being. I have even more appreciation for his writing and all the work that went into it!

If you’re interested in Poe, I highly recommend picking this up and improving your day by rediscovering one of the most legendary American writers!

Was this review helpful?

ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

This book is great at detailing the life and possible causes of death of Edgar Allan Poe. I knew the bare minimum about Poe going into this book so I found it all very interesting and know want to read more of his work that was lesser known. If you’re at all curious about his life and untimely demise, this book gives everything you could want to know, citing multiple sources, and much more!

Was this review helpful?

As a mystery aficionado and all-around genre reader, I’ve long been acquainted with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. After all:

QUOTE
The two forms he crafted into literature have one thing in common: both horror and mystery are an attempt to uncover a truth. The horror story probes the mysteries of the cosmos and human nature, searching for revelations that we may never find. The journey into darkness must be taken, and fears must be faced, but answers are not guaranteed. We may well be on the trail of the unknowable, the insolvable, the impenetrable. The detective story might take us down similarly dark alleys, but it gives us the assurance and comfort that an answer can be found, understood, and revealed.
END QUOTE

To a large extent, I’ve favored his mysteries over his horror stories, but perhaps none of the ones he penned has seized the public imagination so greatly as the mystery surrounding his own demise. The facts are few but certain. On October 3, 1849, he was found in Baltimore in a state of insensibility, wearing cheap clothes that were not his own. He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died several days later. Every other facet of his death has been disputed, if not outright lied about, almost from the moment the last breath left his body.

I freely admit that I was one of the people bamboozled by the wealth of urban legends surrounding his final days. I’d been under the impression that he’d died in a Baltimore gutter, most likely of rabies, all of which is untrue. Mark Dawidziak not only sets the record straight, establishing the few known facts of what happened, but also does a deep dive into what may have occurred and what the likeliest actual causes of death might have been, offering the known evidence for the support of each but ultimately acknowledging that modern technology might not yet be capable of ascertaining without a shadow of a doubt how the legendary writer actually passed on.

A Mystery Of Mysteries does a greater service, though, than merely presenting the most plausible causes of death. It also debunks the many myths that have grown around the great writer’s life. It’s easy to think of Poe as a gloomy alcoholic who wrote in great crazed spurts of inspiration before sinking back into long periods of prostration. The reality, however, is that he was a lively, humorous man in vigorous good health for most of his life. His work ethic was top notch, as he persevered at various poorly paid positions while constantly writing and revising his own output. In his day, he was considered a critic first, a poet second, then a writer of prose fiction last. It is no surprise to me, a book critic, that this has entirely turned around in the intervening years, and that he’s best known now for his wildly atmospheric short stories.

There are, of course, some aspects of his life that have persisted as truth. He did have a bad habit of quarreling with people he needed help from, and his romantic life raised eyebrows, to say the least. But he worked hard at his craft, and was severely beset by misfortune at nearly every step of the way. Mr Dawidziak chronicles these setbacks with compassion and empathy, though one can’t help feeling that posthumous glory is cold comfort to someone who spent so much time struggling to house and feed his young wife and beloved mother-in-law. It’s argued that Poe would never have written his best works had he not had to struggle so hard, but I subscribe to the idea that he would have been even more prolific had he not had the stresses of survival to contend with. Adversity may build character but poverty sucks the energy out of souls trying to thrive in society.

Written with painstaking attention to detail and with the collected testimony of over a century of people who knew, admired or have studied Poe, A Mystery Of Mysteries is the kind of book that ought to be read by anyone with even a passing interest in the acclaimed author. The timeline can sometimes feel disjointed, but this is, overall, one of the finest investigations into his life and death I’ve come across. After having read this book, I like to remember him now thusly, as he appeared to friends barely a fortnight before his untimely death:

QUOTE
Certainly during the last few days in Richmond, many friends and acquaintances described his mood as upbeat. That seemed to be the case when he bid farewell to the Talley family on September 25. He was the last to leave the party at Talavera that night. The parting image was for Susan Archer Talley both symbolic of his life and sadly prophetic of his death: “We were standing on the portico, and after going a few steps he paused, turned, and again lifted his hat, in a last adieu. At that moment, a brilliant meteor appeared in the sky directly over his head.”
END QUOTE

A literary figure whose light shone only too briefly during his own lifetime, Poe was a rare talent indeed.

Was this review helpful?

I do like Edgar Allan Poe's work, so thought this book would give more insight in to how he got his inspiration to write. Although the book did give his bio, and theories of how he finally died, I did think that many chapters were repeated and no exact conclusion was reached.i do thank the author, publisher and Netgalley for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

A fascinating look at Edgar Allan Poe's death (and life).

It's pretty clear we'll never have a definitive answer on strange and unusual circumstances of Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death, but I appreciated the way the author presented all of the evidence for the various theories over the years without saying outright what he thought happened. We were guided through some possibilities that were more probable than others and left to make our own inferences.

This is an incredibly well-researched book. The quotes from more modern horror authors such as Robert Bloch and Stephen King were a nice addition.

Was this review helpful?

I have always been fascinated by Edgar Allen Poe, so when the chance to read Mark Dawidziak's POV on his enigmatic, I jumped at the chance.

This book covers the last few weeks of his life and fills in some of the backstory on his life as a child and teenager. Getting to know Poe in a much different light than he is portrayed usually was both refreshing and exhilarating. Poe was a master of comedy and had such a beautiful writing style in his poetry that the fact he is best known for his macabre writings is a little sad to be honest.

You can see quite clearly that Poe had some pretty intense mental health issues and the author really did an excellent job of giving a very well researched and rounded review of his life.

The writing was lucid and I really enjoyed the way the information was presented. I felt I learned things about Poe I didn't know and buying a copy is top of my to do list.

If you like non-fiction and you would like to know more about Poe, then this book has to be your next read.

4.5 stars!! Thank you St Martins press and netgalley for my review copy!!

Was this review helpful?

A interesting investigation into the death & life of the famous Edgar Allan Poe makes for quite an interesting read. Alternating chapters between Poe's life and his final days Mark does a great job debunking some of the many myths surrounding Poe.
His use of Poe's material through the book along with letters, articles, & reviews are used throughout the book, so even if you're somehow not familiar with Poe's work you leave with an unbiased knowledge of it. Historically it's quite a fascinating read.He even dives into the modern day adaptations of Poe's work.

As always my reviews are my honest opinions and spoiler free!

Was this review helpful?

I received a complimentary copy of this excellent biography from author Mark Dawidziak, Netgalley, and publisher St. Martin's Press. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read A Mystery of Mysteries of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I have added Mark Dawidziak to my authors followed. He writes a good history. I am happy to recommend his work to friends and family.

I have read several Poe biographies over the years, and I must say this one is special. If there are conflicting tales, Dawidiak gives you both viewpoints - you decide which you want to remember. And there are many conflicting viewpoints on this author/editor who died so young. Having this overview of his life and work without prejudice is very interesting. If you have read them all, have no idea of the history of this versatile author, or are only familiar with required high school readings, pick up this biography. Poe was an author of many genres of work, though best known for his horror tales. Please check out his poetry and other novels if you are not familiar with them. His was a fine talent.

Was this review helpful?

Say the name Edgar Allan Poe and dark, gothic tales and poetry come to mind. But he was so much more than that brooding figure we have all come to recognize. From his poor beginnings to time at West Point to creating the detective that birthed Sherlock Holmes, Poe has a much bigger tale to tell. And then there’s his death – strange, mysterious and still unsolved after all the decades since. A Mystery of Mysteries by Mark Dawidziak covers all of this and more, providing a deeper look at the man known for “nevermore”.

I have been a fan of Poe’s stories and poems since I was a pre-teen. I even made sure to pay a visit to his grave when I was in Baltimore a few years back. But I will admit that I have never gone beyond the well-known darker tales that created the image of Poe we all know. This biography has inspired me to look into other works and reread many in closer detail, especially those following his detective C. Auguste Dupin.

And though I knew a little about Poe’s life, it was enlightening to read of just how much hardship he faced almost constantly, from family to health to money. He led an exceedingly stressful life. Of course, like so many artists, he was not universally well-received during his time nor did his work provide a comfortable life. He moved around so often, it’s difficult to keep track of where he was living at various points in his life.

But the biggest mystery of Poe’s life is, of course, his death. The circumstances are well-suited for creating a mythology around any figure, but the fact that there are still merely theories and no definitive answers is amazing. No one knows why he was in Baltimore on that fateful day, nor why he seemed to not even be wearing his own clothes or why he was acting so strangely when he was found. Dawidziak does a good job covering some of the more reasonable theories and does provide a good basis for the most likely explanation. A Mystery of Mysteries is worth a read for Poe fans.

Was this review helpful?

I have always been fascinated by Poe and this investigation of his life and his sad ending engaged me from start to finish. With alternating chapters of his life and the many theories about his death I came away with a new sense of who he was. Full of details about what may have caused his death, this is a book I'll be talking about to my mystery reading friends.
My thanks to the publisher St. Martin's and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?