A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe

Blackstone Audio. Feb. 2023. 10:37 hrs. ISBN 9798212276290. $19.95. LIT/BIOG
In this nonlinear biography, Dawidziak (coeditor of Mark Twain and Youth: Studies in His Life and Writings) alternates chapters between the days before Poe’s death and his life leading up to those days. Poe’s complicated life began as a young child when he lost both his parents and other influential parental figures. As an adult, he struggled with alcohol as well as keeping friends and maintaining a steady income. Although he was an accomplished literary critic, it wasn’t until his poem “The Raven” was published in 1845, four years before his death, that he really captured readers’ attention. Seasoned audiobook narrator Grover Gardner relays the details of Poe’s life without becoming mired in the minutiae, enabling listeners to glean a full picture of Poe—his writings, his relationships, and his personality. With measured pacing and an even tone, Gardner shares snippets from Poe’s poetry and short stories. Dawidziak is upfront that the circumstances surrounding Poe’s demise remain a mystery; the final chapter discusses the myriad of theories about his death, ruling out some and marking others as plausible.
VERDICT A worthy update to any Poe or biography collection, sure to attract listeners who might bypass something headier.
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