Pale Blue Eye (Bayard) - Book Reviews

Book Reivews
Bayard reinvigorates historical fiction, rendering the 19th century as if he'd witnessed it firsthand. He employs words like "caoutchouc," "meerschaums" and "anapestic" as fluently as he uses Gothic tropes. Landor is attacked in the dark woods and in a dark closet. Messengers drive phaetons. There's black magic, phrenology, a profusion of ghosts, even a boat trip through torch-lit mist. But none of it seems musty. Bayard does what all those ads for historical tourist destinations promise: as Landor says at death's door, "the past comes on with all the force of the present."
Ada Calhoun - The New York Times


Bayard follows Mr. Timothy (2003), which brilliantly imagined the adult life of Dickens's Tiny Tim, with another tour-de-force, an intense and gripping novel set during Edgar Allan Poe's brief time as a West Point cadet. In 1830, retired New York City detective Gus Landor is living a quiet life at his Hudson Valley cottage, tormented by an unspecified personal sorrow, when Superintendent Thayer summons him to West Point to investigate the hanging and subsequent mutilation of a cadet. Poe aids Landor by serving as an inside source into the closed world of the academy, though Poe's personal involvement with a suspect's sister complicates their work. But the pair find themselves helpless to prevent further outrages; the removal of the victims' hearts suggests that a satanic cult might be at work. This beautifully crafted thriller stands head and shoulders above other recent efforts to fictionalize Poe.
Publishers Weekly


Nothing is what it seems in the capable hands of novelist and book reviewer Bayard (Mr. Timothy). In the highlands of the Hudson River valley during the fall of 1831, Gus Landor, a retired New York City police detective, is called to the West Point Military Academy to assist in the investigation of a bizarre murder. After examining the first mutilated cadet, Gus realizes that he needs inside help and recruits a shadowy cadet and struggling poet named Edgar A. Poe. As the two sift through the evidence and line up suspects for questioning, more murders are committed. Between the rigors of military life and the natural mysteries of the Hudson valley, this period mystery moves methodically to the suspects, the motives, and the clues that twist and turn like the Hudson itself. The novel is further charmed by a skillful and lyrical writing style and the intrigue of West Point, now and then. A good addition for all public libraries. —Ron Samul, New London, CT
Library Journal


Bayard's second offering is another literary tour de force, this time featuring the young Edgar Allan Poe as a detective's assistant. Bayard has much fun with his prosy, impressionable Poe as he and former New York constable Gus Landor solve two grisly murders at West Point, circa 1830. Landor, having retired upstate for his health, is now informally recalled to service to investigate the death of Cadet Leroy Fry, found hung and with his heart surgically removed. Discretion is the word, and so needing a man inside, Landor enlists Cadet Poe to gather information, for it is certain that Fry was murdered and mutilated by a fellow cadet. Landor and Poe find evidence of Satanic sacrifice at the crime scene, and soon after, another cadet is found hung and heartless, and this time castrated, too. With classic savant-style deduction, Landor narrows the field of suspects to Artemus Marquis, a charismatic upperclassman whose father happens to be West Point's resident surgeon. It is Poe's mission to insinuate himself into the Marquis household, and in the process Poe falls gloomily in love with Artemus' creepy sister Lea. Among his less pertinent observations of the Marquis family is the curiously ardent bond Lea and Artemus enjoy. Oh well, for the only relationship that really matters is the tender one between Landor and Poe, as they cozy up on bleak winter nights to get drunk and ponder the meaning of it all, until Landor discovers the sad lies that knit together Poe's past. One imagines that much of Bayard's enjoyment came from creating a set of events that would later influence all of Poe's writing—working backward, inventing inspiration for his poems and tales. As Poe and Landor come closer to their end, predictability begins to lessen the grand finale of fire and ice, but that end is a red herring, and the revelation in the mystery's denouement is so shocking and smart that the entire tale is turned upside down. At novel's end, the reader may want to start again from the beginning.
Kirkus Reviews

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