Pocket, Nov 2001, 25.00, 400 pp.
Edgar Allan Poe is unable to feed his family on the wages he makes as a journalist/editor in Philadelphia. He relocates, with his family, to New York City where writing opportunities are much better. When he sees a handbill for the P.T. Barnum's American Circus, Edgar turns irate because he knows that at least one falsehood exists on the handbill he was given. He confronts Barnum, but obtains nothing but blarney from the glib talker.
Barnum is very impressed with Poe and visits the writer in his home when the media blames Barnum's American circus for causing a murder to happen. Poe who has solved murders before (SEE NEVERMORE) agrees to investigate. When the victim's missing arm is mailed to Poe's home, he concludes he is on the correct path and if can stay alive long enough he will solve the case.
Poe is clearly the star of this book as he uses his belief in his superior brain power to slice and dice everyone using self-deprecation so nobody will be offended. The HUMBUG is a serious historical mystery though Barnum lightens up the atmosphere with his unique brand of showmanship. Though a nineteenth century who-done-it, mystery lovers of all sub-genre persuasions will enjoy Harold Schecter's tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner