The Man Who Was Poe

by Avi

Paperback, 1997



Local notes

PB Avi


HarperCollins (1997), Edition: Reissue, 208 pages


In Providence, R.I., in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe reluctantly investigates the problems of eleven-year-old Edmund, whose family has mysteriously disappeared and whose story suggests a new Poe tale with a ghastly final twist.

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

208 p.; 5.13 inches


0380730227 / 9780380730223



User reviews

LibraryThing member nsenger
I recently took a detour from my 2017 Reading Challenges to read The Man Who Was Poe by Avi. My daughter's seventh grade class is reading it together, and my wife and I wanted to share the experience with her. Plus, I find Poe a fascinating writer and I was looking forward to seeing him as a character in historical fiction.

The story takes place in Providence, Rhode Island in 1848, when Edgar Allen Poe is reluctantly drawn into helping a young boy find his missing mother, sister, and aunt. The mystery itself is intriguing and well told, especially for middle school readers--the target audience for the novel. It has its cliffhanger moments and even a twist or two, but it is definitely not up to par with the recent Agatha Christie books I've read this year.

Still, Avi creates a suitably gloomy, gritty, and dark atmosphere. From the boy's squalid hotel room to the nighttime graveyard scenes, the setting is appropriate to a book starring Poe.

My main problem with the book is its portrayal of Poe as an alcoholic writer so obsessed with his story that he cared nothing for helping the boy Edmunds find his family except that it gave him material for a good story. I'm not sure why Avi even chose to make Poe the detective in this mystery story. He could just as well have created a fictional character to try and help Edmund. Poe's literary background makes almost no appearance in the novel, wasting a prime chance to introduce young readers to classics like "The Raven," "The Tell-tale Heart," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Fall of the House of Usher."

If Avi wrote The Man Who Was Poe to get readers interested interested in Edgar Allen Poe, I'm not sure he didn't do the opposite and drive them away. Poe is such an unsympathetic character in the book, that if this was my first exposure to him as a seventh grader, then I don't know that I would want to read anything by him. I will be very interested to hear what my daughter thinks of Poe after she finishes the book with her class.

Though the book was a bit of a disappointment, it was still a good opportunity to share a literary experience with my wife and daughter.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Whisper1
I was disappointed. The title is misleading. While Poe is a character in the book, the book is not primarily about Poe or his life. Instead, this is a tale of young Edmund who lives in a hovel with his sister and Aunt in a run down area of Rhode Island. When his Aunt leaves and does not return, Edmund must stray out of the house to find food for his sister.

When he returns, his sister is missing. Trudging through the back streets in search of his sister, he finds Poe, who does not identify himself as Poe. Reluctantly, he tries to solve the riddle of what happened to the young girl.

Not Recommended. No Stars!
… (more)
LibraryThing member regularguy5mb
Wow, I had a complete misconception of this book when I first bought it from a book fair back in '91. I thought it was a book about Edgar Allan Poe, that it told some story of his past, or just his life story in some way.

I was wrong.

Instead, The Man Who Was Poe is about a young boy named Edmund who, after leaving his sister alone in search of food, returns to find her gone from a locked room. In his panic, he bumps into a man newly arrived in Providence who claims his name is Auguste Dupin. Of course, in reality this man is Edgar Allan Poe himself. Reluctantly, Poe says he will help the boy find his missing sister.

And, considering some other books I bought from the book fair that year, this book is really well written. It's a double mystery in which Edmund and Poe must find Sis, find out what happened to the children's aunt Pru, determine if there is any information on the children's missing mother, and discover what, if anything, this whole thing has to do with a large gold heist from the local bank. On top of this, Edmund has to deal with the mystery of Dupin; a man who is helpful one minute, hurtful the next, and is impossible to get answers from.

I thought this book was about Poe. Instead it is about Edmund, and how he comes into his own while his life is in absolute chaos. Well written and Avi doesn't shrink away from the violence inherent in a story like this just because it's a book aimed at children and young adults.
… (more)
LibraryThing member librisissimo
Extremely disappointing. I don't object to Avi's characterization of Poe, which is probably accurate, but it was unsuitably complex and harsh for a junior reader.
The mystery was both complex and simplistic, being written down to the younger audience with no regard for plausibility or consistency.
LibraryThing member lkmuir
In Providence, R.I., in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe reluctantly investigates the problems of eleven-year-old Edmund, whose family has mysteriously disappeared and whose story suggests a new Poe tale with a ghastly final twist.
LibraryThing member benuathanasia
A stale fictionalized account of Edgar Allan Poe's life trying to make it seem as though Poe's own life were comparable to his stories.
LibraryThing member ChazziFrazz
Edmund has run out for just a short bit to get something to eat. Aunty has left him and his sister alone in the single windowed tenement room for two days. She told them to stay in the room till she came back. Two days ago. No food, heat or word where she had gone. Perhaps she had finally found their mother?

While out he finds he is being followed by a man. A man in a long black army coat, with a pale complexion and dark hair and mustache. What is it this man wants?

When Edmund arrives back at the room, he finds his sister is missing! Where could she have gone? The door is still locked and she knew not to leave the world. Was she kidnapped and if so by who?

Thus starts the mystery of "The Mon Who Was Poe". Where is Edmund's Aunty and sister? Where is his mother? Why does this man become involved in Edmund's life in November 1848 in Providence, Rhode Island in the harbor areas is not safe for this recently arrived London family. Will Edmund find his missing relatives? Who is this strange man who has offered to help Edmund?

The writing takes you into the feeling and atmosphere of the era and area.
… (more)




(67 ratings; 3.6)
Page: 0.4133 seconds