A Mystery of Mysteries is a brilliant biography of Edgar Allan Poe that examines the renowned author’s life through the prism of his mysterious death and its many possible causes.
It is a moment shrouded in horror and mystery. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849, at just forty, in a painful, utterly bizarre manner that would not have been out of place in one of his own tales of terror. What was the cause of his untimely death, and what happened to him during the three missing days before he was found, delirious and “in great distress” on the streets of Baltimore, wearing ill-fitting clothes that were not his own?
Mystery and horror. Poe, who remains one of the most iconic of American writers, died under haunting circumstances that reflect the two literary genres he took to new heights. Over the years, there has been a staggering amount of speculation about the cause of death, from rabies and syphilis to suicide, alcoholism, and even murder. But many of these theories are formed on the basis of the caricature we have come to associate with Poe: the gloomy-eyed grandfather of Goth, hunched over a writing desk with a raven perched on one shoulder, drunkenly scribbling his chilling masterpieces. By debunking the myths of how he lived, we come closer to understanding the real Poe—and uncovering the truth behind his mysterious death, as a new theory emerges that could prove the cause of Poe’s death was haunting him all his life.
In a compelling dual-timeline narrative alternating between Poe’s increasingly desperate last months and his brief but impactful life, Mark Dawidziak sheds new light on the enigmatic master of macabre.
*A 2024 Edgar Award Nominee*
“A biography that reads like a gripping, well-reported feature story.... [Dawidziak's] informed enthusiasm sweeps the reader irresistibly along.” –The Washington Post
“Part high-speed tour of Poe’s tumultuous career and part cold-case investigation of his premature and enigmatic end.” –Wall Street Journal
“This bio’s mode of presentation is almost as striking as its subject’s life…vibrant.” –Washington Independent Review of Books
“Written like a novel with frequent quotes and stirring accounts that paint vivid details…a page-turner from start to finish.” -Forbes
“Excellent…Dawidziak’s biography reaches beyond the myth of Poe to reveal the actual man and writer, all while painting a vivid picture of the era in which he lived.” –Bookpage (starred)
“In this intrigue-filled offering, Dawidziak achieves the difficult feat of delivering a fresh biography of Edgar Allan Poe…this has revelations to spare.” –Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Dawidziak’s thoroughly researched investigation meticulously explores the various theories surrounding Poe’s death while vividly capturing the public’s ongoing fascination with this quintessential tortured soul.” –Booklist (starred)
“A brisk, satisfying biography of a literary icon who still fascinates.” –Kirkus Reviews
“A Mystery of Mysteries is, itself, a mystery worthy of Poe’s fictional sleuth C. Auguste Dupin.” –New York Journal of Books
“A Mystery of Mysteries will surely fascinate even the mildly-curious Edgar Allan Poe fan…a poignant analysis.” –The Week, “8 must-read books in 2023”
“Even those familiar with Poe's story will find plenty of surprises here, while those who know him only by reputation will get a better-rounded view of a man who was far more than an author of a few scary stories.” –The Columbus Dispatch
“Cleverly constructed…With rich detail, engaging prose, Dawidziak offers an intriguing and welcome addition to Poe scholarship.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Dawidziak releases [Poe] from this caricature, emphasizing Poe’s work as a literary critic, his fine sense of humor and the vast amount of work he produced.” –Akron Beacon Journal
"Holds precious information about Edgar Allan Poe's life and professional career beyond the mainstream stereotypical picture that the general public owns of the American poet...an entertaining and engaging read." –The Edgar Allan Poe Review
“Edgar Allan Poe has brooded over the world’s comprehension as the dark prince of horror tales: a hollow-eyed specter surrounded by candle-tossed shadows, a raven on his writing table, an empty cognac glass at his elbow. In this revelatory biography, Mark Dawidziak honors the Gothic nature of Poe’s work, yet sweeps open the curtains to throw full light upon this masterful poet and shaper of American literature.” –Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Flags of Our Fathers and Mark Twain: A Life
“A poignant and realistic picture of Poe through the fascinating black prism of his mysterious death.” --J.W. Ocker, Edgar Award-winning author of Poe-Land
“Mark Dawidziak plumbs the mysteries of Poe’s life and career with extraordinary skill and knowledge. Much like Montresor leading Fortunato through the winding catacombs, he leaves the reader surprised and thoroughly ensnared.” –Daniel Stashower, Edgar Award-winning author of The Hour of Peril and The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder