J. Lincoln Fenn’s Poe is a shining display of humorous morbid entertainment. With a thrilling mystery, Fenn takes dark themes and gives us a witty novel with ties to history and magic. Suspense and intrigue are the name of the game and Fenn mixes this nicely with her light writing style.
It’s Halloween, and life is grim for twenty-three-year-old Dimitri Petrov. It’s the one-year anniversary of his parents’ deaths, he’s stuck on page one thousand of his Rasputin zombie novel, and he makes his living writing obituaries.
But things turn from bleak to terrifying when Dimitri gets a last-minute assignment to cover a séance at the reputedly haunted Aspinwall Mansion.
There, Dimitri meets Lisa, a punk-rock drummer he falls hard for. But just as he’s about to ask her out, he unwittingly unleashes malevolent forces, throwing him into a deadly mystery. When Dimitri wakes up, he is in the morgue—icy cold and haunted by a cryptic warning given by a tantalizing female spirit.
As town residents begin to turn up gruesomely murdered, Dimitri must play detective in his own story and unravel the connections among his family, the Aspinwall Mansion, the female spirit, and the secrets held in a pair of crumbling antiquarian books. If he doesn’t, it’s quite possible Lisa will be the next victim.
Fenn does dark humor well, bringing to mind other authors such as Joe Hill. One of the highlights of Poe is how Fenn juxtaposes a fast pace, lighthearted tone with a dark mystery. This helped create a world and characters who are used to dwelling in the alternative side.
Poe plays out like a rocker kid’s book grown up, and as such, played well into my loves. This was most prevalent in character development. Every character, be it the protagonist Dimitri or love interest Lisa, felt like an old friend. They were a little on the weird side, but had a lot of optimism. Fenn captured her examples well and played on a little known theme in counterculture- passion. One couldn’t meet a character without being able to identify that they were passionate about what they loved and hated. Dimitri had his writing and history while Lisa had music. This was a touch I absolutely adored, having counted myself among this archetype before and realizing very few writers truly capture it. Fenn effortlessly pinpointed the essence of who her characters were and presented them in a no frills manner, making for a successful story.
The absolute highlight of Poe was how multilayered the mystery was. While somewhat predictable, it never actually felt that way as I read. This was partially due to Fenn’s use of perspective narrating. I would be hard pressed to find something about Poe I didn’t enjoy. There was an authenticity built into the sense of intrigue which could have gone awry but Fenn balanced it quite well. The plot points were too entwined and neat to give away highlights, instead I can give you my solid recommendation. All in all, Poe is a book that in many ways hit the spot. It isn’t pretentious but instead a true come as you are novel, even if you may be a bit odd or quirky.