A Mystery of Mysteries, Mark Dawidziak

A black illustrated cover. The title is in a puffy text, there is a (raven) in grey with a man in a cape in the middle of the raven. The cover is a bit of a mess.

About the Book

It is a moment shrouded in horror and mystery. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849, 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, delirious and “in great distress” on the streets of Baltimore, wearing ill-fitting clothes that were not his own?

Mystery and horror. Poe, who remains one of the most iconic of American writers, died under haunting circumstances that reflect the two literary genres he took to new heights. Over the years, there has been a staggering amount of speculation about the cause of death, from rabies and syphilis to suicide, alcoholism, and even murder. But many of these theories are formed on the basis of the caricature we have come to associate with Poe: the gloomy-eyed grandfather of Goth, hunched over a writing desk with a raven perched on one shoulder, drunkenly scribbling his chilling masterpieces. By debunking the myths of how he lived, we come closer to understanding the real Poe—and uncovering the truth behind his mysterious death, as a new theory emerges that could prove the cause of Poe’s death was haunting him all his life.

In a compelling dual-timeline narrative alternating between Poe’s increasingly desperate last months and his brief but impactful life, Mark Dawidziak sheds new light on the enigmatic master of macabre.

Book Links
Releasing February 14th


My Thoughts

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.

One thought on “A Mystery of Mysteries, Mark Dawidziak

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s