Friday, May 16, 2008

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe

Source: Librivox
Length: 1 hr, 34 min
Reader: Reynard T. Fox

The story: Edgar Allan Poe begins his story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" with a long discourse on analysis, holding up the importance of observation as superior to mere intellect alone. After this rambling expostulation, the story actually begins as the narrator introduces us to his freind C. Auguste Dupin. Dupin is a prime example of one possessed of the powers of both intellegence and observation. Dupin soon involves himself in a seemingly demonic crime: an old woman and her daughter have been brutally murdered inside a room in which every entrance was locked. Witnesses reported screams and an inhuman babbling coming from inside the room, yet when they forced the door open, there was no one inside but the two dead women. With the police baffled, Dupin begins to collect clues to solve this apparently impossible crime.

Although this is considered the first detective story, I was surprised at how many of the conventions of the genre are already in place. The detective is eccentric, antisocial, and physically weak. Early on in the story, he demonstrates his skills in a frivolous but amazing display of observation to the admiring narrator who serves as a stand-in for the reader. The police are bumbling, overlook evidence, and arrest an innocent man. The crime is bizarre and incorporates many chance events. Yet despite these tropes-in-retrospect, this is a very good story. You can see its obvious influence in the Sherlock Holmes stories, the TV show Monk, and even in a story nominated for the Hugo Award, one of science fiction's top honors (the link goes to an audio version of "A Small Room In Koboldtown", courtesy of Escape Pod).

Rating: 7/10

The reader: Reynard reads in a marvelous English accent. He varies his voice enough to discern characters and convey a sense of who they are. There are a few minor faults: a whistling sound in the s's and a tendency to read each of Poe's many subordinate clauses separately, though this flaw probably can be more accurately placed at Poe's infatuation with long, rambling sentences like this one. These slight problems were not enough to distract from the story and its overall excellent reading.

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