The Murders in the Rue Morgue Podcast
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” may be the first detective story and the first locked-room mystery. Set in Paris, the story features amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin and his unnamed sidekick, who narrates how Dupin solves a gruesome double murder.
In the story, the narrator draws distinctions between types of intellect, such as concentration, calculation, and analysis. Later, Dupin describes the prefect’s intellect like this: “He’s too cunning to be profound. In his wisdom is no stamen. It is all head and no body … He has attained his reputation of ingenuity: the way he has of denying that which is, and explaining that which is not.” What do you think about these distinctions?
Dupin is a forerunner of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, and others. He’s a reclusive outsider with keen powers of observation and plenty of time to kick back and think. His trusty sidekick narrates the tale and details of the protagonist’s superior intelligence without offering many insights or observations himself. And clues in the story give readers the chance to solve the mystery.
And let’s talk for a moment about “Chekhov’s Gun,” a concept that describes how every element of a story contributes to the whole. Chekhov wrote: ‘If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” The idea here is that strong narratives should not include extraneous ideas.
However, Poe breaks new ground here — in mystery narratives, Poe essentially says, the usual rules don’t apply. The rifle doesn’t need to go off in chapter two, chapter three, or ever. Instead, the rifle, like the gold coins in the story, can be a red herring. Therein lies the challenge — for the detective and for YOU, the reader.
How to read it: Find a copy on your bookshelf, buy it on Amazon, or read it for free (courtesy of Project Gutenberg). You can find discussion questions here.
Estimated reading time: 1 hour
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