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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allen Poe, and the Invention of Murder » User review

Odd mix of murder mystery and the life of Edgar Allen Poe.

  • Oct 23, 2009
I would certainly tend to agree with those who point out quite correctly that "The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allen Poe, and the Invention of Murder" appears to be more about the life of Edgar Allan Poe than about the unfortunate murder of a beautiful young woman.  Nevertheless, author Daniel Stashower does a workmanlike job of weaving together the two stories that were so representative of life in New York City in the late 1830's and early 1840's.  Times were tough indeed as the nation limped through a severe downturn in the economy.

The young lady who came to be known as "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" was Mary Rogers.  In 1838 the proprietor of a local cigar emporium named John Anderson hired Mary to work as a salesgirl in his store.  Thanks to his new hire and the convenient location Anderson's Tobacco Emporium proved to be an immediate and smashing success.  Newspaper moguls, business leaders and government officials all frequented the store.  Suddenly, Mary Rogers was somewhat of an "item" and her name would appear from time to time in various newspapers.  As things turned out Mary Rogers only worked at Anderson's for a short period of time.  However, when her her battered and bludgeoned body was fished out of the Hudson River on July 28,1841 the apparent murder of Mary Rogers became a sensation in the newspapers.  The stories were rife with speculation and inuendo.  Over the next year or so the story would take any number of strange twists and turns.  And while the murder of Mary Rogers has never been conclusively solved the most likely scenario turns out to be quite surprising indeed!

In the meantime, it seems that Daniel Stashower devotes more than half of the pages of "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" to the life of Edgar Allan Poe.  While Poe certainly did become involved in the case of Mary Rogers with his fascinating article "The Mystery of Marie Roget" I certainly had no reason to expect that so much of this book would be devoted to him.  Since I knew very little about Edgar Allan Poe to begin with I really did not mind learning about his life here.  It turns out that despite his obvious and enormous talent, Poe's penchant for self-destructive behavior would severely limit his ability to earn a living in the literary world.  Time and time again, in job after job, Edgar Allan Poe would wear out his welcome.   His story is both sad and tragic and one cannot help but wonder what might have been had Poe been able to overcome his personal problems.

In any event, the bottom line is that "The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allen Poe, and the Invention of Murder" was not quite what I had expected. Too many pages devoted to Poe really did seem to detract from the real reason I was reading this book--the murder of Mary Rogers. Despite its shortcomings, this is still a book that managed to hold my interest from cover to cover.    Recommended.

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November 14, 2010
Sounds like an interesting read despite its shortcomings. I ran across your review because I was making a new genre badge for Cafe Libri. Here's the list if you want to earn it: http://www.lunch.com/cafelibri/badges/Romanticists-22217-74-1-1.html

If you have any suggestions for more nonfiction badges, let me know! :)
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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A gruesome murder, a stunned city, and Edgar Allan Poe come to life with vivid detail in this shocking true story by award-winning author Daniel Stashower

On July 28, 1841, the battered body of a young woman was found floating in the Hudson River. It was soon discovered to be the lovely Mary Rogers, a twenty-year-old cigar salesgirl who had gone missing three days earlier. By nightfall, news of the girl's death had spread and sent Manhattan into a spasm of horror and outrage.

In the months that followed, the gruesome details of the murder pushed American journalism into previously unimagined realms of lurid sensationalism. But despite media pressures, New York City's unregulated and disjointed police force proved unable to mount an effective investigation, and the crime remained unsolved.

A year after Mary Rogers was murdered, as public interest in the case began to wane, a struggling writer named Edgar Allan Poe decided to take on the case. At the time of the murder, thirty-one-year-old Poe had recently published his groundbreaking detective story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." A year later, however, his fortunes had taken a downward turn. Desperate for success, Poe sent his famous detective, C. Auguste Dupin, on the case of a lifetime: to solve the baffling murder of Mary Rogers in "The Mystery of Marie RogĂȘt."

In The Beautiful Cigar Girl, Edgar Award-winning author Daniel Stashower deftly captures the drama and mystery of New York in the mid-nineteenth century, ...

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ISBN-10: 052594981X
Author: Daniel Stashower
Genre: 19th Century
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Date Published: October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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