THE MAN WHO WAS POE by Avi

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Edmund is close to despair.  He, his sister, and his aunt had not been in American very long at all before his aunt disappeared.  What’s worse, they still have seen no sign of Edmund’s mother, whom they came to America to seek.  After going out in search of his aunt and failing to find her, Edmund returns to their small apartment to discover that his sister has also vanished from inside their locked apartment.  He has no hope of finding any of his family again until a mysterious stranger turns up.  The man is drunk and possibly a bit mad, but he seems sure that he can unravel the mystery and find Edmund’s aunt, mother, and sister.  Edmund sees no other option than to trust the sullen, disturbed gentleman and hope for the best.  Unfortunately, it seems as though the stranger’s troubled past may interfere with his abilities as a detective.

The Man Who Was Poe is a dark, somewhat gothic mystery story.  Readers who are familiar with Poe’s stories and biography will probably find this fictional imagining of Poe both believable and fascinating.  Readers without an interest in Poe may be frustrated by the detective’s mood swings and the passive, whiny helplessness of the leading child character, Edmund.  Edmund’s character does improve by the end of the novel, however, and the mystery itself is very intriguing.  I would recommend this book to all Poe fans and to readers in grades 5-8 who enjoy dark, gothic novels.

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