It is 1841 and the gruesome double murder of an old woman and her daughter in their apartment in the heart of Paris has the police baffled. Enter one C. Auguste Dupin, Edgar Allan Poe's fictional detective. Before Miss Marple, Hercule Poiret and Sherlock Holmes, there was Le Chevalier and this anthology seeks to restore Dupin to his rightful place as the grandmaster of literary sleuths.
Along with Poe's original story, a classic "sealed room" mystery, we have an assortment of others from writers including Mike Carey, Stephen Volk, Elizabeth Massie and Clive Barker. In one of the most enjoyable stories of the collection, "The Sons of Tammany", Carey brings the exacting Frenchman to New York at a critical time in the city's history. In "From Darkness, Emerged, Returned", Massie conducts a beguiling psychological study. Meanwhile in "The Purloined Face", Volk brings a contemporary sensibility to the Phantom of the Opera story that sees the inscrutable detective reveal something of his past. Curiously Barker, the most well-known author in this anthology, produces the weakest story of the lot, "New Murders in the Rue Morgue"; I defy anyone not to spot its "Max, Mon Amour" denouement coming a mile away. And that's not a spoiler, it really is the least involving story here.
Even so, it is fascinating to see the direction each writer takes. While some retread the same ground giving the detective offspring and an extended family (not alike Jessica Fletcher in the long-running TV series, Murder, She Wrote), others go in new and unexpected directions. In "The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning", Joe R. Lansdale combines fantasy and steam punk elements, while Massie especially deserves praise for her inventiveness, making good use of the burgeoning advances in medical science at the time.
Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation Sherlock Holmes will be interested to see the similarities between the two fictional sleuths - their observational skills, astounding deductive powers and particular tastes. "I could not help remarking and admiring a peculiar analytic ability in Dupin," writes Poe, "He seemed, too, to take an eager delight in its exercise - if not exactly in its display - and did not hesitate to confess the pleasure thus derived."
For fans of murder mysteries, this is a highly enjoyable anthology that is sure to engage and entertain. Can a TV series be far behind?