Posted by: chartroose | May 12, 2008

The Pale Blue Eye

Louis Bayard, 2006, 448 p.

“All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.”
~ Edgar Allan Poe

I adore Louis Bayard because he provides an antidote to my ADD.  Normally, no more than an hour or two of my day is spent reading because I tend to become wriggly and lose focus after about thirty minutes.  When this happens, I have to do something useless for awhile before I can get back to my book.  The only time I can really sit still and read is right before bed, but my bedtime reading sometimes lasts for just a few minutes due to the head nodding and drooling all over the pages problem I often develop later at night.

There is something about Bayard’s writing that prevents the aforementioned problems from happening to me.  I think I stated in an earlier post that there are times, with certain authors, that I can “get into the zone” and be transported to another plane of reading experience.  Something clicks in my brain, and when this occurs, I can read their book(s) nonstop for hours.  This phenomenon has happened to me both times that I’ve read Louis Bayard’s novels, and it’s strange because his genre is totally outside my sphere of interest.  Mr. Bayard currently writes period mysteries starring literary/historical figures.  I read Mr. Timothy several years ago and was so enthralled with it that I stayed up all night to finish it.  Now, the same can be said for The Pale Blue Eye. I stayed up until around 1 a.m. before closing it for the last time, and I was very sad to say goodbye.

The Pale Blue Eye has two main characters; a detective named Gus Landor and Edgar Allan Poe, and the novel is set during the mid 1800’s when Poe was a cadet at West Point.  Landor uses Poe to help him solve a couple of grisly cadet murders.  Landor uses Poe for a bit more than that as well, as do some of the other characters.  In fact, Poe was very ill-used throughout the novel, but Poe was also very smart, and this was his saving grace.

The more I think about it, the more amazed I become at Bayard’s skill with characterization in his novels.  In Mr. Timothy, Tiny Tim was fully-fleshed out, and he was exactly the type of man he should have been as an adult.  The same can be said for Poe in The Pale Blue Eye. He was a naiive, chivalrous, irresponsible, prophetic, irritating, and hopelessly romantic man.  Bayard imagined him exactly the way I imagined him when I was going through my “Poe phase,” and doesn’t every angsty teenager go through a “Poe phase?”  In addition to excellent characters, the settings are impeccable and the language perfectly fits the time frame of the novel.  The Pale Blue Eye is so finely constructed that I am hard-pressed to find anything wrong with it.  I even noticed that Bayard’s action sequences have improved with this novel.  Without a doubt, The Pale Blue Eye will be in my top five reads for 2008.

Reading The Pale Blue Eye gave me the incentive to conduct some minor research on Poe.  He is considered to be the “father” of detective fiction, and was also one of the first authors to dive into the realm of science fiction.  He remains one of the most popular authors EVER, with his works translated into dozens of different languages, even Swahili!

Poe paraphernalia is abundant, and since I like to post pictures on this blog, I decided to find some pictures of Poe dolls to conclude with.  Here they are:


  1. You’ve totally made me want to read this one! And now I want an Edgar Allen Poe doll too. Maybe they should do a Special Edition publication of the book that comes with a Poe doll…now that’d be fun. 😀

  2. This is a real coincidence, as we just took my husband’s little brother to the Poe House, here in Philadelphia!

  3. Eva — Do give it a try if you have the time. The conclusion is quite surprising.

    Bridget — It’s pretty tiny, isn’t it? I think I’ve seen pictures.

  4. I love the Poe dolls! And you’ve made me want to read this one too.

  5. […] Book Thoughts: THE PALE BLUE EYE – Louis Bayard The Pale Blue Eye « Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage! In Which Our Hero: BOOKS: The Pale Blue Eye, Louis Bayard […]

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