Wednesday, November 16, 2022

"The Pale Blue Eye" by Louis Bayard - Book Review and Discussion

Book Review of "The Pale Blue Eye" by Louis Bayard
Trying to decide what to read next? If you enjoy historical fiction or mysteries check out my review of "The Pale Blue Eye" by Louis Bayard.

The Pale Blue Eye
by Louis Bayard 
At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet's body swinging from a rope just off the parade grounds. An apparent suicide is not unheard of in a harsh regimen like West Point's, but the next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has stolen into the room where the body lay and removed the heart.

At a loss for answers and desperate to avoid any negative publicity, the Academy calls on the services of a local civilian, Augustus Landor, a former police detective who acquired some renown during his years in New York City before retiring to the Hudson Highlands for his health. Now a widower, and restless in his seclusion, Landor agrees to take on the case. As he questions the dead man's acquaintances, he finds an eager assistant in a moody, intriguing young cadet with a penchant for drink, two volumes of poetry to his name, and a murky past that changes from telling to telling. The cadet's name? Edgar Allan Poe.

Impressed with Poe's astute powers of observation, Landor is convinced that the poet may prove useful—if he can stay sober long enough to put his keen reasoning skills to the task. Working in close contact, the two men—separated by years but alike in intelligence—develop a surprisingly deep rapport as their investigation takes them into a hidden world of secret societies, ritual sacrifices, and more bodies. Soon, however, the macabre murders and Landor's own buried secrets threaten to tear the two men and their newly formed friendship apart.

A rich tapestry of fine prose and intricately detailed characters, The Pale Blue Eye transports readers into a labyrinth of the unknown that will leave them guessing until the very end. (from
Recommended for: readers who enjoy historical fiction that is extra history-y and mystery readers who love a good twist

"The Pale Blue Eye" by Louis Bayard
Book Review and Discussion

Things That Worked

History-y Historical Fiction "The Pale Blue Eye" renewed my appreciation for historical fiction. It has been a while since I chose to read a historical fiction book. The genre just wasn't grabbing my attention, particularly when they all seem to have the same cover!  In my opinion, world-building is one of the hardest parts of writing - and it is also one of the things I most enjoy as a reader. Bayard rebuilt a world that once existed and made it feel real even though I've never experienced it. That is just as impressive a feat to me as creating a new reality for a fantasy novel - "The Pale Blue Eye" felt like time travel. I have read another historical fiction novel since and I instantly noticed how much less authentic the world the author built felt. "The Pale Blue Eye" totally rose my bar for historical fiction in the best way.

So smart, and rereadable There is so much happening between the characters in "The Pale Blue Eye" that I am sure I could read it again and catch new insights I missed the first time. All of the characters add so much to each scene and their interpersonal back and forth was so engaging.

The twists! "The Pale Blue Eye" truly had me guessing the entire time. I was invested not just in who committed the murder but in how the other characters would find out as well! 

Movie adaptation coming soon! I am so excited to see the film adaptation of "The Pale Blue Eye" in December. A theater local to me is playing it the days before Christmas, but it was also begin streaming on Netflix in January. The casting is absolutely perfect and I am so excited to see how Christian Bale and Harry Melling portray these characters. Check out the trailer by clicking the video below!

What I Struggled With

Kindle Dictionary Needed  This is very much a me problem, and not actually an issue with the writing, but I relied heavily on my Kindle Dictionary while going through this book. "The Pale Blue Eye" isn't an easy read and required some effort to get through. I loved how historically accurate it is and that includes the language and vocabulary used at the time. I lost count of the number of times I had to look a word up or reread a sentence because it was a little out of my reading depth. In the best ways, this book reminded me of reading classic literature. 

Have you read "The Pale Blue Eye" by Louis Bayard? Let me know your thoughts about the book below. No spiders : ) If you haven't read it, let me know what book to movie adaptation you're most excited to see or what book you wish would be adapted! 


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