Cover Image: A Mystery of Mysteries

A Mystery of Mysteries

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Many of the myths about Poe turn out to be false, but many of the facts are just as interesting or mysterious. And Dawidziak’s insights and commentary help humanize Poe and shine new light on his gifts. Like the best author biographies, it makes you want to reread everything Poe ever wrote.

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If you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe and like to learn more about authors' lives, then this book is for you. There is so much research about what happened to EAP the night of his death. I like that this book starts with the death. It makes it the focus and circles back to it. I think this is really clever!

Thank you so much to St. Martins Press for sending me a copy on Net Galley and a finished copy!

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A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak
#seventhbookof2023 #arc

CW: death, poverty, tuberculosis

A Mystery of Mysteries is a biography of Edgar Allan Poe and his impact on the horror and gothic genres.

I have been a fan of Poe forever, so I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. It alternates between Poe’s life story and a very detailed account of his last days. It also took a questioning look at the mysterious circumstances of his death. For some reason, I hadn’t realized that he died at 40! All that talent, so much potential for the missing second half of his life. Also, who knew he had so many feuds with other authors and journalists?

I recommend this book to anyone interested in Poe. Even the most die hard fans are sure to find some tidbit of information they didn’t already know.

Thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for the advance copy. (Pub date 2/14/23)

#edgarallanpoe #amysteryofmysteries #nevermore

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I enjoyed the fact that in order to explain Edgar Allan Poe’s life you have to start with his death. While I’m familiar with his work, I wasn’t as familiar with his life. The information was laid out so it was easy to move through and make connections. Overall great job!

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I received a digital advance reader’s copy of A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak via NetGalley. A Mystery of Mysteries is scheduled for release on February 14, 2023.

A Mystery of Mysteries centers around Poe’s death and the myths and questions surrounding his final days and ultimate end. Dawidziak has compiled extensive research in an attempt to tell the story of Poe’s death and his life before it. He has organized his findings into chapters that focus on a portion of Poe’s life, while tying those events to his final days. The result is a series of snapshots or vignettes that tie together to paint a sort of picture of Poe. In the end, Dawidziak is unable to solve the mystery, not for lack of trying, but for lack of evidence of what truly occurred.

While each chapter worked for me, I did struggle to tie them all together into one timeline. Each chapter did focus on a segment of Poe’s life, and these segments were presented in chronological order. However, each segment also jumped forward in time, presenting fragments of Poe’s later days. The constant shifting back and forth in time made it difficult for me to link them together into one coherent sequence.

Overall, A Mystery of Mysteries is a deep dive into Poe’s life and death, that explores the mystery and myth of Poe and acknowledges his place in both literature and history.

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I didn’t know much about this author, but I was introduced to him through his poem, The Tell Tail Heart. My son had to read it for school. As my son got older he learned more about Edgar Allen Poe that fascinated him and made him say, “He’s had a sad life, and oh, the mysteries behind his death. No one can agree on what happened to him” When the opportunity came available to read and review this book, I couldn’t turn it down. I wanted to find out more about the mysteries behind this man, his work and his death.

The author starts the book with Edgar Allan Poe’s death on October 7, 1849. The author says, …”at just forty, in a painful, utterly bizarre manner that would not have been out of place in one of his own tales of terror. What was the cause of his untimely death, and what happened to him during the three missing days before he was found…is a mystery.”

Oh, my, I had to know more. I read on. I couldn’t believe all the theories people had. One believed a brain tumor, someone else felt he was murdered, some thought it was suicide, others felt he was poisoned, and the list goes on.

The author touches on his childhood, education, and his mother’s and wife’s deaths. I like how this author wrote this book using some of Poe’s writings from the last months of his life and his own research. It’s fascinating that people are still trying to figure out how this man mysteriously died. I also liked how this author spotlighted some of his works, so readers interest would be peaked to read more. Maybe come up with their own theory.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I requested and received a copy of this book by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog

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I would like to start off by saying I'm not really big on biographies/autobiographies. When I do partake, I like to listen to the audio versions. I was super excited to read this one however. I really love Edgar Allan Poe. That man was wild and petty as fuck. Who can't respect that?

Dawidziak definitely put in the research for this book. When we think of Poe, we see an author, and someone who is sickly and dependant on different substances. But I loved his sassy, dickish reviews. It's a good one for folks who love Poe. It's interesting to see, but what you are able to take from the book depends on you.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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As a lifelong fan of Poe, I knew as soon as I saw this that I had to read it.  I've always loved his stories and poems, but didn't know much about him or his history.  The basics that I'd learned in American lit in middle and high school were the extent of my knowledge.  This was a great chance to learn more about the man and the mysteries surrounding him.

Told in alternating timelines, the author gives a detailed retelling of Poe's life and eventual death.  There was so much I'd never known and learning about the inspiration for some of his most recognizable works was fascinating.  The author's style makes it feel like you're hearing from the people themselves, rather than from a biographer or researcher.  It made for an enjoyable and educational read.

The alternating timelines threw me off a bit at times and I was often confused as to which one I was in.  Is this his youth?  Are we leading up to his death?  This technique works well in fiction, in my opinion, but lends itself to disconnection in a biography.  Occasionally, sentences would have too much information added to them, making them clunky and difficult to parse.  However, the writing itself was generally easy to follow and absorb. 

Mystery of Mysteries is an informative and well-researched novel.  Packed full of quotes, excerpts, and details that were new to me, I found myself even more enamored of Poe than I had been before I started reading.  Now, I need to go back and reread many of his works now that I know the backstories and inspirations behind them.

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A Mystery of Mysteries by Mark Dawidziak was received directly from the publisher and I chose to review it. Edgar Allan Poe, most everyone has heard of him and probably read at least one of his stories. I personally had never paid that much attention to his life to be aware of any controversy surrounding his death, or the last few weeks of his life before he died. This book delves into Edgar's life and death. between Richmond, VA, and New York City. Apparently, there are four locations along the East Coast that lays claim to Edgar's life. If you are a fan of Mr. Poe, or are just interested in American history, certainly give this book a read.

4 Stars

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The cause of Edgar Allan Poe 's death is the focus of this book. He died in October 1849, after being missing for 3 days. What actually caused his death?

Dawidziak takes a look at the cause(s). He talked to writers, university scholars, and curators of his museums. They all have different reasons and who is to say which one is the correct one. Though, I lean toward one that makes a lot of sense to me. Dawidziak looks at his life from birth to death, but it's not in a chronological order. I didn't care for that. The book seemed to job around on dates a lot.

Poe was an orphan, a ward of a family, and destitute most of his life. He had a problem being able to handle money. He seemed to shot his self in the foot when thinks started going good for him. The one thing I know for sure is that Poe is more popular now than he was in his lifetime.

Publishes February 14, 2023

Thanks to Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Dawidziak for the Kindle Version of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

🙃 Happy Reading 📚🙃


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Edgar Allan Poe has been one of my favorite writers for most of my life. As an English teacher, I have read and written about Poe many, many times. So, reading this book was an absolute must.

The book is well-written and is backed up by evidence, which is nice to see. It was attempting to take us from our gloomy view of Poe and show the truth behind the show. I did think it kind of went in too many directions at once in several places.

Unfortunately, because I have read about, written about, and taught Poe for years, the book didn’t really offer any new insights or information I didn’t know already.

I found myself skimming through section after section because I wasn’t getting anything new or exciting from it.

I think this is a great book for someone who doesn’t already know much about the infamous Poe. For the more informed reader, it’s just a condensed version of what anyone could find spread all over the internet.

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Loving Poe and being absolutely drawn to this cover, I raced to request an ARC of A Mystery of Mysteries. However, this book takes a bit of getting used to because it starts incredibly dry. It is also difficult because the author used citations instead of footnotes, which makes the reading cumbersome. This is made even more so as the chapters alternate between a shorter chapter of 20 minutes long, as we’re discussing Poe’s final days, to a longer, biographical chapter that can be upward of an hour.

Poe’s death is riddled with confusion and inconsistencies, so when it’s added in from the author as well, it can be a muddle. For example, Dawidziak states that Poe’s final doctor, Moran, was four years removed from their medical degree, but then goes on to quote an RN who says Moran had graduated two years prior. So it can be tricky parsing out exactly what we’re looking at.

It can be challenging writing about Poe and making it feel like you’re coming at it from a different angle. Perhaps that is why Dawidziak wrote the book with the alternating approaches. But ultimately, it makes the book feel disjointed. I think there is value in this book for readers who don’t know much about Poe’s life or his final days. But the approach, with the endless citations in the text instead of using footnotes, will be challenging for any reader to get through. Thank you, St. Martin’s, for sending this over.

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Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Press for this fascinating biography of Edgar Allen Poe. They sent me a digital arc, but I’m absolutely going to purchase a hardback for future reference. I would have marked passages and dog-eared pages. Reading a book like this makes me want to finally go to grad school for my English MA (someday!).
While some chapters weren’t as engaging to me (his early relationships, for example), several moments were absolutely compelling. I even got an idea for a high school English assignment while reading this book.
Poe was undoubtedly a genius, and his work is more persistent than most authors of his time. He was not only a master of the macabre, but the inventor of the detective story as we know it (Arthur Conan Doyle gives credit to Poe for his Sherlock stories). He was a brilliant poet and a pretty normal guy—not alike any of his characters, as we often picture him.
This book aims to deconstruct the mystery of his death, and while the circumstances remain a mystery, the author examines various theories and posits that solving the mystery is not only impossible, it would also be a bummer. His death is so akin to his stories (for example, a runaway train destroyed his headstone before it could be delivered to the cemetery—that tale would fit right in one of Poe’s horror stories). The fact that no one can explain how or why he died with any satisfaction is just one way that Poe remains immortal.
If you’re a fan of his work at all, you’ll definitely enjoy this addition to the archive.

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I read Poe in high school, and I think I’ve seen every big screen adaptation of his works, but I’ve never revisited Poe or knew much about his life or death. It seems no one really knows much about his mysterious death at the age of 40, but Mark Dawidziak tries to get some answers in this book. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Told in dual timelines, the reader alternates between the last few months of Edgar Allan Poe’s life, and what led him there, starting with his birth. I can’t say I liked the format much, as used to dual timelines as I am. For this subject, it didn’t seem to work. What would have been better is a straight biography, and then a closer examination into Poe’s last days. Instead we have a disjointed account of his final days, which does no service to the story.

However, what is presented is compelling enough. The author tries to cover every myth about Poe and clear up any misconceptions people may have had. You see, most people think of Poe as a gloomy type of broken character based upon his most famous works and the last few daguerreotypes taken of him. But for 20 years, Poe was always an optimist, never letting lack of work get him down. Along the way, he became a well-regarded literary critic as well as an author in his own right.

Poe’s problem seems to be that he had a very low tolerance for alcohol and during his adult life was known to have benders. That’s not saying he was an alcoholic, he just had trouble handling even one glass, and could go years without a drink. However, you would think that someone who is self-aware of how alcohol affects them and all the trouble he got into when he drank would avoid it, so maybe he was an alcoholic. The author doesn’t think so, but I’m less inclined to agree.

Poe’s success as a writer came late in life, yet wasn’t thought seriously enough in America to bring him riches. Nowadays Poe is considered a writing genius, the father of the detective story, and a master of the horror genre, but not so during his lifetime. His mysterious death just added to the mystique.

The book is peppered with interviews from Poe scholars, museum curators, authors like Stephen King who were influenced by him, and medical detectives. Currently, therqe are more than 20 theories of how Poe died, and the author explores some of the most popular ones to disprove them or make them seem plausible. Some of the theories are “hypoglycemia, rabies, diabetes, tuberculosis, alcoholism, encephalitis, heart disease, influenza, epilepsy, liver disease, or meningeal inflammation due to viral or bacterial infection.” The author’s conclusion, based on his conversations with all his interviewees is that Poe died of tuberculosis or tubercular meningitis.

The book was very interesting if you’re like me and hadn’t done any research on his life or death. Recommended for fans of Poe, true crime mysteries, and biographies.

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Quite disappointed with this one.

I'm not a huge Edgar Allan Poe fan (and maybe this would have worked better for me if I was), but this felt a bit lackluster to me. My main issue was the writing style. This read a lot like a textbook, which isn't a style I enjoy reading.

A Mystery of Mysteries is told in 3 ways: quotes, insertions of Poe's writing (or quotes taken from his writing), and facts. The quotes are what really bothered me and made me almost DNF this. There are quotes from so many people, and they take up the majority of this book. Poe experts, Poe fans, and anyone who could possibly have something to say about Poe, all of these quotes were included, and a lot of the time they didn't really add anything. They just bogged the book down. Same with the quoting of Poe's poems or short stories. If the book was discussing someone Poe was in love with, the author would insert the entire poem that Poe wrote about that person. And at first, this was fine but it got to be too much and became repetitive and unnecessary.

Overall, this one really didn't work for me. I kept zoning out and reading this ended up feeling like a chore instead of an interesting learning experience. Maybe it'll work for other people, but it's not one that I'd recommend.

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

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An impressive, emotional look at the life and numerous myths that circle Edgar Allen Poe. Known to be gloomy, addicted and dark, Mr. Dawidziak strips away the varnish and reveals a more color portrait.
Poe’s life was steeped in tragedy and yet we learn of a more athletic man enjoying frequent walks and one of humor that easily laughed at himself.
Shared in dual time lines the author engages the reader in part biography and part mystery unraveling the days leading to his untimely death and providing detail that is never boring but intensely interesting.
Highly recommended and a ‘must read’.
With thanks to NetGalley, the author and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.

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A legend of the grotesque and the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe must have been a dark, gloomy person, right? Well, this dense but fascinating book will surprise many by describing the author as a funny, athletic and optimistic man. Despite the many setbacks during his lifetime, including the death of almost all of the women who were significant to him, he always had a sunny outlook. This is no speculation regarding the facts of his life. Dawidziak talked to many Poe experts and researched letters written by contemporaries who knew him personally, as well as Poe’s own correspondence. His timeless masterpieces are set in their biographical context, so it is possible to read even another layer of meaning in Cask of Amontillado or Masque of the Red Death, among many others. This is a slow read, but only because there is so much information, since it is written in an easy to follow language. Poe wrote one of my favorite short stories ever (Masque of the Read Death) and my favorite poem (The Raven) and I thought I had an idea of what his life had been like. Turned out, even if I knew the main events, I had no clue of the reality. The main MacGuffin here is his mysterious death. Dawidziak analyzes it like Dupin himself and rounds up all the usual suspects only to determine… well, you’ll have to read this book to find out whodunit. Spoiler alert, it’s not an easy answer.
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#St. Martin's Press!

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I wanted so badly to love A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak. It started out strong. I learned that the image of Poe that we're presented with these days is a thin caricature of the robust person that Edgar Allen Poe really was. For most of his life, Poe was funny and athletic; not the morose, sickly looking image we have come to know. Another fact I wasn't aware of: during the height of his career, he was actually best known as an excellent book critic, penning scathing reviews for magazines of his time.

The facts presented in the book were well researched. I learned a lot about Poe's life and they mystery surrounding his death. The book is structured so the chapters alternate between the last days of Poe's life and a biography of his life. While the book is very informative, I also found it to be very dry reading. And many of the statements about Poe's life and temperance were repeated - often - throughout the book.

I'd say this book is good for diehard Edgar Allen Poe fans who want to learn more about his life - and death. The information is all great. But don't expect to be drawn into the book. I understand not all books are meant to entertain everyone. Your personal mileage may vary. I am giving this book a mysterious 3 out of 5 stars.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Thank you, NetGalley, for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating 3.5 / 5

‘The Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe’ is a biographical examination of both the life Poe had lived and the lore surrounding his mysterious death. I genuinely found this biography to be very enjoyable.

Going into this book, I had little expectations. While I am familiar with his work, I never cared too much for him to research outside of that context (excluding a Buzzfeed video I stumbled across during the pandemic). This book was captivating and interesting. Coincidentally, I ended up reading this on his birthday, and I enjoyed learning about the theories around his death, struggles, and upbringing. It added a lot of additional context to my understanding of his work.

I think the unique aspect of this book is the way the author formatted it to give deeper context to his life and death. This book alternates between chapters on Poe in his final months and chapters discussing his backstory, upbringing, life etc. In addition to it being a unique feature, it gave the biography a cinematic feel that will be enjoyable for readers but also creates more accessibility to people who are not non-fiction readers.

I will say that I read this at a time when I wasn’t fully in the mindset to be consuming so much nonfiction, so I was not as fully engaged as I would have liked to have been. But I see myself picking it up again once it’s been released, possibly on audio.

I recommend this book to people who are familiar with his work and are interested in his life. But I would also recommend this to people who enjoy biographies in general.

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A Mystery of Mysteries seeks to examine Edgar Allan Poe’s final days before his death in addition to reviewing his life’s work. I found this to be thorough and entertaining and learned quite a bit that I hadn’t already known about Poe.

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