The Parisian Murders

Again, this post should have been written like anons ago, but as I have been explaining, practically in all my posts of May, that, Travel, illness, weddings and other social events kind of got me completely off tracked….however, I am back and like they say, lets get the show moving. As part of 12 Months Classical Reading Challenge, where the April theme was “A classic you’ve seen the movie/miniseries/TV show of”, I read Murders at Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. Now, as God be my witness, with so many films and television shows based on books, I have no idea why at that point I was penning the list did I choose this one! Except, that I made the list right after the Winter holidays, where I spend another film watching marathon on every single film starring Val Kilmer. To take a minor detour from the usual book review post, let me quickly give you a background – I was 8 when I saw Top Gun….it was nearly 5 years since it had originally be released in US, but India was still playing catch up. A cousin of my best friend had gotten a VCD of film as a gift to her and we sat down to watch something that had  been cool in US 6-7 years back! Oh! Well! While my best friend drooled over Tom Cruise (natually) I was completely mesmerized by the golden haired gum chewing bad boy – Val Kilmer. I feel in love and I am still in love though I know he is old and well not as happening as he used to be, but hey…this true love and true love abides! Back to present day, while I books own my soul and I do not like films too much, there are times when I indulge and Val Kilmer movie marathon was one such indulgence. For those who do not know his film credits by heart. The Murders at Rue Morgue was a made for television movie in 1986 and had a pretty impressive star cast of George C. Scott, Rebecca De Mornay, besides Kilmer. While I saw the film, I had never read the novella and it made sense to read Poe as part of this event!

The Murder at Rue Morgue begins with the narrator sharing with the readers a theory on analytic and analysis and how the latter influences the former and then introduces us to his friend Auguste Dupin, a brilliant man not particularly social with certain eccentricities with whom the narrator shares an apartment. Their daily routines of reading through the day and writing and debating and walking the streets of Paris in the night, is disturbed as the news of the gruesome double murder of  Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter in the Rue Morgue, erupts in the city. The details of murder are bizarre and grotesque – the Madame L’Espanaye throat is badly cut that her head is barely attached and her daughter, after being strangled, has been stuffed into the chimney. The murder occurs in an inaccessible room on the fourth floor locked from the inside. The neighbors who heard the screams of the two women and ran into the house claim that they heard two voices talking – one in French and the other in another language, which each neighbor accounted for differently; one called it Italian, another Spanish, yet another English and another said Russian. There seemed no clear motive for murder either ; the mother and daughter were quite retiring ladies who saw very few people, but  shared a mutual affection. It was an interesting fact that Madame L’Espanaye had made a withdrawal of $4000 a day before her murder, but the money was found stewen all over the chamber. The police arrested the clerk who worked in the bank and has escorted Madame L’Espanaye back to her house, after she made the withdrawal, but they are unable to establish a motive and most importantly explain the murders. Dupin who had received a favor from the bank clerk starts his investigation to clear the latter’s name and reveal a most unusual and improbable events that led to the murders.

This was the first tale where Poe had introduced his now famous Dupin and he does full justice to his character. Dupin is not flamboyant like his competitor Mr. Holmes and he does not display any habits like violin playing or indulging in drugs. He is however eccentric, anti-social, connoisseur of books, with brilliance that like a streak of bright light hurtling at you. The mental processes which Poe showcases through Dupin are steeped in psychology and human behavior and the reader has to pay very close attention to all the details to genuinely enjoy the marvels of a brilliant mind. The novella is not a nail biting mystery, where you are hanging on by each page, but a slow revelation in intellectual persistence and layer by layer, the mystery is revealed. The conclusion, I thought both for the film and book was a bit exotic  and sensational – but then considering the time and audience the books were being written for, it seems to also kind of fall in place.  The language is simple, but since Poe uses a lot of psychological analysis in moving his plot forward, it is not a breezy mystery read to be rushed through! A very fine read and though I have not yet given up my devotion to Holmes, I have every intention of exploring a bit more of Mr. Dupin’s mind!

A final P.S. note before I end this post – this film is the an example of very reason why I do not like watching films based on books! On reading the novella, I discovered there is no Horace (Val Kilmer) and Dupin played by Scott is an old retired police officer who was discharged from the police force for disagreeing with the chief! There is his daughter played by De Mornay who is engaged to philandering but innocent of the murder bank clerk! I understand taking artistic liberties, but this is just stretching the whole liberty to a new height!! Stick to the books I say!

 

This and That….

It’s been a trying week from technology perspective. First last week, on a bright Saturday morning, I woke up feeling at peace with the world in general and with great ambition of penning ..er…it is typing some magnificent words in prose for my never –will-be –completed novel. I made myself a large cup of tea, switched on my laptop and then sat down to write in earnest; the screen went blink and fuzzy in 5 minutes and then completely white. No amount rebooting and lopsided shaking (Yes! It works!!) could get the screen to display anything but the pristine whiteness, something that did not help my rising temper. Frustrated by the evening I dropped it off to a repair center, who called me a day later and said that it would take 4 days or so to fix it and the reason my screen had given up living, (I do believe that inanimate objects have a soul!) is because some tea had fallen in its junctures (you know the place where it connects to the motherboard!) Oh!!! Sob! Sob! Wail!!! Naturally the repair would not be cheap (More Sob! Sob! Wail!!!) and just when I thought I would have some extra cash in my hand! The road to hell is truly and honestly paved with good intentions! Finally after 5 days when I got the laptop back, the internet stopped working due to a terrible storm that hit this part of the world and finally after another two days of enforced hiatus from the cyber world, last evening my entire technology related puzzle fell into place and now everything is working as it is supposed to. Or so I thought…then suddenly I realized by Blackberry’s keypad has stopped typing ….they will not type a thing!! This to me who texts more than she calls…and I DO NOT have the energy to chase down Blackberry Customer Service anymore!!

In other and brighter news, my best friend and flatmate, decided to take pity on my ghastly week and treat me to an awesome Italian dinner last night. Lots of cheese, cream and an amazing ice cream pudding made the world a much better place (I am aware of cholesterol and all that…but everyone is allowed an indulgence!!) The evening got better when we made an impromptu detour to our favorite bookshop where I promptly dispensed with all my remaining savings in buying all the below –

bpic

It’s not like either my flatmate or I needed new books…we had plenty to in our reading list, and I know I need to really save and well there are reasons for not buying anything but this is what happens when I go there – everytime!!

Bookstore

Hence the splurge and I could almost justify all the books I bought…almost!!I had lost my copy of Rebecca and Sherlock Holmes and no collection can be called complete in the absence of these two books. At the shop owners recommendation and he really knows good books and what I like, I bought Robert Galbraith (aka J.K.Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike novels. My sister had ranted and raving about Guy Gavriel Kay ‘s The Lions of Al-Rassan, so naturally I had to pick that up and then Jane had such high praises for The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric that I could not let that go either. I also picked up for my history reading project War and Gold by Kwasi Kwarteng (Yes! I have been reading History…just not blogging about them…don’t ask me why!! And finally for a no better reason than a whim, I also purchased Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge.

Considering the troublesome nature of the week and the temptations that lie waiting in form of brand new unopened novels, I keep this post short! I hope your week went better than mine and your weekend as wonderful if not better!!