The Mask of Red Death

Written by Harold Schechter
Review by Sue Asher

In many ways, The Mask of Red Death is a typical addition to the psychotic serial killer genre. An insane murderer is on the loose, and an amateur detective must catch him before he strikes again. Victims are viciously brutalized, their bodies mutilated and cannibalized. The first two casualties are children, for added effect. Despite the author’s ability to render crime scenes in graphic detail, there’s nothing new in the blood-and-gore category. Fortunately, the characters drive this historical murder mystery, not the plot. It is the detective Edgar Allan Poe who makes this a worthwhile read. Told in Poe’s voice, the book manages to be quite funny and rises above its subject matter. Erudite, vain, fussy, with a tendency to self-aggrandize, the protagonist nevertheless wins respect by his intelligence, caring, and unexpected bravery. Poe, called “Eddie,” is surrounded by a complimentary cast including his laconic partner Kit Carson, his friend P.T. Barnum, and his frail cousin-wife Sissy. His interactions with his wife are particularly delightful since the woman doesn’t quite match Poe’s romantic image of her.

This is the third book in the Edgar Allan Poe mystery series. It is not necessary to read the others first, but you may find yourself so entertained you’ll want to read them all.