review: Nevermore by William Hjortsberg
Written By: Word Nerd
Nevermore: A Novel
Release Date: January 1996, re-released March 2012
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini team up to search for a literary-minded killer. It is 1923 and a beautiful young woman has just been found outside a tenement, bones crushed, head ripped from her shoulders. A few stories above, her squalid apartment has been ransacked, and twenty-dollar gold pieces litter the floor. The window frame is smashed. She seems to have been hurled from the building by a beast of impossible strength, and the only witness claims to have seen a long-armed ape fleeing the scene. The police are baffled, but one reporter recognizes the author of the bloody crime: the long-dead Edgar Allan Poe.
A psychopath is haunting New York City, imitating the murders that made Poe’s stories so famous. To Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the killing spree is of purely academic interest. But when Poe’s ghost appears in Doyle’s hotel room, the writer and the magician begin to suspect that the murders may hold a clue to understanding death itself.
When this book crossed my desk, I felt like I had been handed a gift from the literary gods. I love mysteries and historical fiction, especially America in the 1920′s. Throw in Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle and Egar Allan Poe and it can’t be anything but good.
Or, so one would think.
The story was convoluted and overwrought. Hjortsberg honed in on minute details of the era, but left gaping holes in the story. He created a layer to the story that was completely unnecessary and vulgar. I do believe that when using the names and personas of real people in fiction, an author has a responsibility to be true to that person and Hjortsberg failed miserably in that respect.
My verdict: Skip it. It isn’t worth your time.