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Disquiet Heart: A Thriller [Hardcover]

Randall Silvis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 20 2002
After the death of his beloved wife, a devastated Poe decides that a change of scenery is in order. He has been invited to Pittsburgh by a wealthy benefactor, Dr. Alfred Brunrichter, a man of intriguing contradiction who on the one hand was fascinated by subjects so macabre that even Poe did not wish to consider, while on the other hand was solicitous of Poe's comfort in every regard and was a local philanthropist and patron of the arts. Augie Dubbins, now a young man in search of adventure, joins Poe in order to keep an eye on his increasingly maudlin friend.

After an exhausting journey across the length of Pennsylvania, their first glimpse of Pittsburgh is not a heartening one. The city, a tight triangle of enterprise squeezed between the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, is gray with factory smoke; its riverbanks clogged with barges, streamboats and freighters, choked with log rafts from the denuded forests farther north. It is at every turn a working-class city, gritty and rough. Moreover, the air of Pittsburgh reeks of death - a cholera epidemic has recently swept through the city, killing hundreds - and Poe and Augie soon learn the real reason behind the city's malaise.

Several young females, all attractive women in their late teens, have disappeared over the past six months. All are of the merchant class - not among the cultural elite but not outright prostitutes either. With Poe almost incapacitated by the lavish attention of their host, Augie finds himself exploring Pittsburgh on his own and begins to investigate the killings.

With great attention to period detail and utilizing all of his skill as a seasoned novelist, Randall Silvis once again crafts a wonderful historical thriller that will leave you gripping the edge of your seats.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Atmospheric and cleverly researched, this shaky sequel to Silvis's well-received On Night's Shore (2001), which introduced precocious street urchin Augie Dubbins and his mystery-solving sidekick, Edgar A. Poe, takes time to build up a head of steam, in large part because the narrator, at age 17 and no longer an engaging waif, dwells too long on his career shift from farmhand to budding journalist. In early 1847, Poe and Augie find themselves the guests of Dr. Alfred Brunrichter, a Poe admirer who has lured the celebrated author to Pittsburgh, Pa., with promises of a remunerative speaking tour. In the event, the good doctor keeps Poe so drugged, or sloshed with claret, that he stumbles through his various readings and lectures. Envious of all the attention lavished on Poe, Augie attempts to establish his own writing career while courting a young teacher's assistant. Poe, whose dear consumptive child-wife has recently gone to her grave, jerks awake for brief marionette cameos that are just intriguing enough to make one wish he were telling the story rather than Augie, whose Victorian posturings on life slow the story to a snail's pace. (Reprints of two of Augie's articles drag the proceedings further.) When Poe finally assumes center stage after Augie becomes the prime suspect in a murder case, the plot picks up and races to a sparkling denouement. Poe's haunting ghost, alas, is not enough to rescue a basically flat, overwrought narrative that invokes some of the mystery of Poe's stories but none of their majesty.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Set in 1847, seven years after the events portrayed in the well-received On Night's Shore (2000), this worthy follow-up again places Edgar Allan Poe in circumstances where his familiarity with the dark side of human nature comes in handy. Poe's wife has just died, and he and his protege, narrator Augie Dubbins, are visiting Pittsburgh at the invitation of a fan, Dr. Brunrichter, who takes an oddly intense interest in Poe's writings, ideas, and especially in his health. Poe seems more and more listless and vacant the longer he stays, and the doctor seems determined to take over as Poe's preferred companion. Meanwhile, young women are disappearing from the streets of Pittsburgh, but it is not until tragedy affects them directly that Augie and Poe begin to question the goodness of the good Dr. Brunrichter. Silvis sensitively depicts human emotion here, particularly Poe's grief and the deep bond between Poe and Augie. Careful historical details and appropriately nineteenth-century-style prose also help to bring this extremely creepy thriller to vivid life. Carrie Bissey
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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THE SUNLIGHT of a late afternoon fell across my hand and across the single sheet of ivory parchment as I read this letter, fell upon the handwriting composed in a tight but elegant script, the lettering so precise as to seem almost feminine. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars more a dark historical fiction than a mystery May 12 2002
Format:Hardcover
When his spouse died, Edgar Allan Poe drowns his sorrows by frequenting the local bars and over indulging. His disenchanted former protégé Augie Dubbins comes to Philadelphia to find Poe. Augie finds a shell of his mentor whose depression is bone deep. However, Augie has some good news. The Quintillian Society head Dr. Alfred K. Brunrichter wants Poe to come to Pittsburgh as his houseguest while providing lectures to the rank and file members.

When Poe and Dubbins arrive at their host's mansion, they are stunned as Brunrichter looks like Edgar's twin. The doctor wants Poe and his cohort to investigate the disappearance of several women in the last month or so. As Brunrichter keeps Poe in a virtual state of stupor with ether, Dubbins begins a search for the lost ladies. However, when Dubbins is accused of murder, Poe shakes off the daze to start his own inquiries including into that of his benefactor.

Though well written, DISQUIET HEART is radically different in mood and tone than the superb ON NIGHT'S SHORE. The sleuthing by Poe and Dubbins comes late in the tale, as the novel is more a historical fiction than a mystery. Instead readers glimpse a depressed pessimistic Poe spiraling into addiction. Still, the story line grips the audience as the atmosphere of 1847 Pittsburgh and Philadelphia vividly seems real through the actions of Poe and Dubbins. Though very gloomy, readers will appreciate Randall Silvis' latest tell tale Poe adventure.

Harriet Klausner
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more a dark historical fiction than a mystery May 12 2002
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When his spouse died, Edgar Allan Poe drowns his sorrows by frequenting the local bars and over indulging. His disenchanted former protégé Augie Dubbins comes to Philadelphia to find Poe. Augie finds a shell of his mentor whose depression is bone deep. However, Augie has some good news. The Quintillian Society head Dr. Alfred K. Brunrichter wants Poe to come to Pittsburgh as his houseguest while providing lectures to the rank and file members.

When Poe and Dubbins arrive at their host's mansion, they are stunned as Brunrichter looks like Edgar's twin. The doctor wants Poe and his cohort to investigate the disappearance of several women in the last month or so. As Brunrichter keeps Poe in a virtual state of stupor with ether, Dubbins begins a search for the lost ladies. However, when Dubbins is accused of murder, Poe shakes off the daze to start his own inquiries including into that of his benefactor.

Though well written, DISQUIET HEART is radically different in mood and tone than the superb ON NIGHT'S SHORE. The sleuthing by Poe and Dubbins comes late in the tale, as the novel is more a historical fiction than a mystery. Instead readers glimpse a depressed pessimistic Poe spiraling into addiction. Still, the story line grips the audience as the atmosphere of 1847 Pittsburgh and Philadelphia vividly seems real through the actions of Poe and Dubbins. Though very gloomy, readers will appreciate Randall Silvis' latest tell tale Poe adventure.

Harriet Klausner
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! April 22 2009
By G. G. Bartley Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have trouble understanding the logic of those who criticize this book. I guess if you want a fast read without much substance, there are better novels. But for a truly memorable book that covers not just into the surface of a crime, but the historical character of Poe in a fictional novel, you cannot do better. I used to work at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, and currently work near Pittsburgh. The author does a truly impressive job of protraying Pittsburgh in the 19th century. And his ability to deal with character of Poe using many of the same words and phrases that Poe used in his works shows that Mr. Silvus really did his research.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Thriller? You could have fooled me Jan. 12 2006
By The Peruvian Wunderkind - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Fresh on the heels of his critical and commercial success, "On Night's Shore," Silvis again revisits the dynamic duo of Edgar Allan Poe and his protégé, Augie Dubbins. Written in the historical crime fiction mold, the novel chiefly takes place in mid 19th century Pittsburgh. Here, the team set their minds to solving a string of female abductions that has plagued Pittsburgh over the past six months. As we eventually discover, one member of the team has a personal interest in having this mystery solved.

What kills this novel (pardon the pun) is it's pacing; quite frankly, it is brutally slow, like watching paint dry. The first 200 pages, approximately 2/3 of the book, serve as nothing more than backdrop, painstakingly detailing Poe's physical/psychological collapse; a collapse, mind you, that has nothing to do with the book's resolution. I would have understood had the psychological section of the novel dovetailed with the thriller portion and/or provided insights concerning the mystery of the disappearing women. However, there really isn't much connectivity between the two parts.

In a futile attempt to maintain the reader's interest, the narrator frequently alludes to imminent disaster. As each reference has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the chest, and Silvis constantly repeats these warnings, apparently unaware that his readers will probably remember things that are mentioned after, oh, about, 100 times, by the time the actual disaster comes about, I was irritated and past caring.

This is a rather obvious whodunit. The reader is constantly two steps ahead of the purported sleuths. Strangely, ostensibly important clues that are intimated earlier in the book, such as Augie's sequence where he is not sure whether he is dreaming, are later totally ignored by our enterprising duo when putting the clues together. The book had me wondering whether Silvis was deliberately trying to insult the pair's intelligence.

Having paid a mere $5 for the book (in hardcover, no less) at my local book superstore, I really can't say I was swindled out of my money. After all, as the old adage goes, `you get what you paid for.' Nevertheless, I was still disappointed, particularly in light of Silvis' reputation as an intriguing storyteller.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Buch McWuerd Jan. 1 2007
By Jan Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Its pretty sad when most of this guys books are available for a penny and the only positive reviews come from Harriet Klausner!
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