Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Name of Annabel Lee

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we --
Of many far wiser than we --
Like that Old Bailey Hack, Horace Rumpole, Miss Lemon sometimes finds it restorative to quote a bit of poetry when faced with a puzzling set of circumstances. Certainly so must have Julian Symons, the creative mastermind behind a string of great whodunits, including The Plot Against Roger Rider, The Blackheath Poisonings and The Name of Annabel Lee.

For Mr. Symons's poetry professor turned sleuth (the excellently named Dudley Potter), however, the life and creative works of Edgar Allan Poe turn from a scholarly pursuit into something a bit more sinister.

Dudley Potter, like countless academics before him, had given up on love when he meets, seemingly by chance, the aptly named Annabel Lee Featherby. In a blink, the pair end up living together in their inevitable 'Kingdom by the Sea' ... and then things go terribly wrong.

Dudley wakes one morning to discover a vicious hangover and a note on the mantlepiece. His love envied by the angels above is gone. With nothing more than the clues in Poe's work to go by, Dudley tries to find her. His quest, not surprisingly, reveals more closeted skeletons than even Poe can lay claim to.

So, my dear readers, if you like poetry and mystery, and the two twined together, there's little doubt you shall like The Name of Annabel Lee.

Interestingly, Mr. Symons seems to have a bit in common with his protagonist. He was a poet and literary critic of some renown, as well as the founding editor of Twentieth Century Verse, a London-based poetry journal that rivaled New Verse in its heyday. He was also, like his fictional protege, a visiting professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts, and, not ironically, the 1961 and 1973 recipient of the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award. He was the 1982 MWA grandmaster.

Mr. Symons departed this earthly realm on 19 November 1994.

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