Poe

July 5, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

poePoe by J. Lincoln Fenn

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First things first: This book isn’t about Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a minor gripe, but it needs to be said, because who else comes to mind when you see the name “Poe”? The use of the name in the story is an homage to the author, but the story itself is about other people.

Second things second: I picked this up a whim a few months back. It was on a list of sale books, and what little research I did into the title made it sound promising. I figured I might get around to it — someday — but I didn’t have high expectations for it. Yesterday, I was killing time waiting on some other folks, and started reading it, and then most of today was spent finishing it up. You can draw your own conclusions regarding what I thought of the book from that.

Poe is about Dimitri Petrov, a down-on-his-luck journalist who makes a living writing obituaries for a small newspaper, also working on a novel about a zombie Rasputin, and for the most part just getting by in life. A story involving a haunted house drops in his lap, and as he’s following up on a story about it, he gets caught up in a real haunting that involves a string of murders that have begun in his town. Along the way, he also falls hard for a woman who also shows up at the haunted house, and their budding romance is the subplot to the main plot.

In stories like these, characters are key, and Fenn does a great job creating Dimitri and Lisa, her two main characters. Their characters feel realized and honest, making their relationship more believable. Fenn also creates a handful of characters who orbit her main characters — Dimitri’s boss and coworkers, Lisa’s mother and niece — who also feel real, even if their development isn’t as significant.

The story is told in the first person by Dimitri, and Fenn uses her narrator to inject a healthy dose of humor to the story. Dimitri is self-deprecating and a bit of a ham, and some of what he says and does in the story made me chuckle aloud. Some of the dialogue that passes between the characters feels a little amateurish and cliched, but it didn’t feel fake. Plus, once the story got going, it felt like Fenn abandoned the banter and started getting into more serious discussions, which paralleled how real relationships develop. Plus, as the events grew serious, the banter grew unnecessary anyway. Some of the banter does give the book a YA feel, even though I wouldn’t consider the book a YA one.

The structure of the story is a little odd. It begins with Dimitri waking up in a morgue, barely alive and recollecting his drowning, and then jumps back to cover the events that led him to that point. The story eventually catches up with the prologue, but does so without much revelation. It’s almost like Fenn had the entire story developed chronologically, and then decided to jump back and restructure everything so she could start with a memorable scene. While the prologue isn’t useless, it does feel a little out of place, like it’s a cheap tactic to draw the reader in. I would have preferred if the story had maintained a fully chronological sequence of events.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. It’s a well-told story, even with its foibles, and what feels like a string of coincidences in the story come together in a conclusion that resolves what could have been loose ends. It feels like Poe is the start of a series, as not all of the major points of the story are resolved by the end, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; if Fenn can capture this lightning in another bottle, then it will be time well spent waiting for the next book in the series.

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