Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

POE by J. Lincoln Fenn

J. Lincoln Fenn

Poe is a mesmerizing novel on two fronts. First, it presents an entirely sympathetic character that I loved getting to know. Dmitri Petrov is a smart guy, and he’s irreverent of the world around him as well as expectations of bosses and circumstance. Even though he’s not an action hero, as he will attest, he’s still a guy who calls his own shots.

Second, even though you’ll get lulled in by the slow pace and maybe think you’re in for a character driven novel that’s enjoyable but no great strain, author J. Lincoln Fenn then smacks you between the eyes with a mystery that extends back a hundred years, brings out an otherworldly feel and fear, and makes you question everything you’ve been so far told – because Dmitry suddenly no longer is certain of what he thought he knew.

I settled in with this one to read a few pages and got sucked into the character. Dmitry is a funny, snarky guy, and I loved his take on writing obituaries, and totally felt his pain at being constrained to reducing a person’s life to a paragraph or two squeezed in between newspaper ads. His own obituary (yeah, you’ll have to read the book to get to that and it’s hilarious) gets even more disrespectful treatment.

Poe can be somewhat of an uneven read to a degree as all the various layers of plot and characters and twists get dumped into the mix, but the story is a ripsnorter that pulled me along until the final pages. I loved the mystery, the dark history that gets revealed, and the gothic overtones.

Fenn mixes horror and comedy very well. Usually when those two get stirred together, one overpowers the other. That doesn’t happen in this novel. When you’re supposed to laugh, you’ll bust a gut. And when you’re supposed to be frightened or leery, you’ll hold on, scarcely breathing, to see if everyone emerges alive. They don’t.

The characters feel real, including the over-the-top newspaper editor Mac who sounds a lot like J. Jonah Jameson with Tourette’s Syndrome. Or maybe Mac uses the language that J. Jonah actually uses before the comic book writers leave it on the cutting room floor.

The cloistered feel of the Aspinwall Mansion as well as the small town slowly dying around Dmitri is prevalent throughout the novel and really adds to the experience. The sequences that take place back in time are amazing and enhance the mystery as well as the threat of everything that’s going on. Fenn does a really good job of establishing setting and menace.

The only downside I see in the book is the ending. The action is there, plenty of it, but events and plot lines don’t resolve completely enough to satisfy me. Is there going to be a sequel? I don’t know, but there appears to be enough material left over to have one. Or more.

Since this is Fenn’s first book, and she did such a good job, I’m looking forward to whatever she writes next. Overall, the reading experience is good. Just make sure you have time to devote to it.

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