Tuesday, February 07, 2012

In honor of the "Poe Toaster"....

In recent news, Baltimore's famed "Poe Toaster" failed to appear at the gravesite of Edgar Allan Poe for the third straight year in a row. It's thought that this may signal the end to the 60+ year tradition of a half empty bottle of Cognac and three red roses being left on Poe's grave by the tall, mysterious man known as the Poe Toaster. While I knew about this event, I didn't know much about the tradition's history, so I turned to Wikipedia for a brief summary about the Poe Toaster, and in turn discovered a mystery novel that included him and his traditional visit: In a Strange City, by Laura Lippman.

Lippman is now a fixture on the bestseller lists; this early book features her series character, Private Investigator Tess Monaghan, who goes to view the Poe Toaster's annual Winter rite and gets double the experience when not one but two dark figures approach the gravesite of Edgar Allan Poe. One leaves his annual tribute and departs, while the second is shot dead by an assassin's bullet. Tess (with no paying client and plenty of time on her hands) is drawn by her curiosity [as well as a few mysterious notes sent to her] into a twisty mystery equally reliant upon the dark history of Edgar Allan Poe and the local Baltimore setting. Any fan of Poe, Baltimore, mysteries in general or female sleuths in particular will find In a Strange City a City well worth exploring. Cold winter nights, ravens, roses, and cognac are optional.

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