The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe (Shane's book 30, 2009)

This is another of my delves back into the history of detective fiction. Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely credited as being the first detective story.

[amtap book:isbn=0099529580]

Poe's hero, C Auguste Dupin, is clearly the progenitor of many a literary detective, not least Sherlock Holmes. Between pipes and from the comfort of his armchair, Dupin picks apart the mysteries as narrated by his slower-witted friend and companion. It's a formula that would become very familiar indeed.

Dupin appeared in just three stories, all of which are included here. The title story is the most famous and the most successful. The story of two women slain in their locked apartment may have a fairly silly conclusion but the approach Dupin takes to solving the puzzle is a familiar one. His analysis of newspaper reports of the crime and his careful examination of the scene allow him to determine the identity of the killer.

In the second story, The Mystery of Marie Roget, Poe transposes a real-life New York murder to Paris and has Dupin show that the assumptions made by police are likely to be wrong. Since the real murder remained unsolved, so does Poe's fictionalised version, which makes for an unsatisfying read. All that is here is Dupin's dissection of a series of newspaper reports. It's repetitive and dull but it does at least have the distinction of being, in all likelihood, the first detective story to be based on a real crime.

The Purloined Letter, the third and final outing for Dupin, closes the collection. As a mystery, it's more satisfying than ...Rue Morgue. It's also nowhere near as silly. However, as a story it remains - like ...Marie Roget - rather flat.

All three stories are important and influential. However, the modern reader is unlikely to find them very entertaining.