From Mary Rogers to Marie Roget
Posted by: Kaite Stover
Edgar Allan Poe, the creator of the modern detective novel, has always been worthy of book discussions and it might be interesting for book groups to pair Poe’s “The Mystery of Marie Roget” with a nonfiction account of the actual crime, The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower.
Stashower examines the nineteenth century murder that made a huge media splash in New York City. Mary Rogers was a celebrated working class beauty whose suitors kept filling up the tobacco shop where she worked. Three days after she was reported missing, her body was pulled from the Hudson River. The killer was never found and the grossly disorganized New York Police Force seemed to derail their own investigation at every turn. One year later, Poe approaches his publisher with the idea that his fictional detective, C. Auguste Dupin, reopen the case.
Readers will enjoy comparing the different points of the unsolved murder as well as the characters of Mary Rogers and Poe. Also ripe for discussion is the sensationalism of the crime in the New York press and readers should take a moment to consider if Poe is a contributor to this sensationalism.
Stashower is an Edgar Award-winning author and fans of Devil in the White City, another book group favorite, will find a story with similar appeals.