The Blackest Bird

April 30, 2007 at 12:50 am 2 comments

As you know I was reading the Blackest Bird by Joel Rose.

It is nearly 500 pages, and much to my chagrin, I was unimpressed with the ending.  I really hate investing so much time and energy into a book only to be disappointed by the end!

There are a few things I really liked about the book  (mainly in the first half)

It paints a picture of nineteenth century New York, so much so you feel like you are there.  The book combines fictional characters and characters taken from real life and uses both in an interesting manner.  For example, it talks about John Colt and his murder of his publisher Samuel Adams with a hatchet.  John Colt is real and is the brother of the arms manufacturer Samuel Colt.  And he really did kill his publisher.    The book follows his story from the trial all the way through his time on death row and is interesting reading.  

There is another character that is also well drawn, that of Tommy Coleman.  He is a leader of one of the Irish gangs populating New York at the time, and I believe his is mainly fictional.  But it follows his story and the murder of his wife, one of the young women who sold hot corn on the streets of New York.  He pleads his innocence, but is also placed in a cell on death row, one facing John Colt.

The third character that makes an appearance is Edgar Allen Poe.  Poe is writing a story about the death of Mary Rogers (who he has renamed Mary Roget in his work), a woman who worked in a cigar shop and was found by the river bank in New Jersey.  Mary Rogers’ tale is also true.  You can read about her on the Internet.  And Poe really did take this story and turn it into one of his tales.  Poe is an interesting character and it is always fun to read about him.

But halfway through the book the story changes and John Colt and Tommy Coleman, for various reasons, leaves the pages.  Then, the book turns into a history of Poe’s later career and his penning of the “Raven”.  Not that this is a bad thing in itself, it is just that the book started out as the mystery behind Mary Rogers death and has turned into a history of Poe, with some elements of the mystery thrown in to keep you on your toes.

Rose comes up with a solution to the crime, from left field, and it left me a little cold.   But I have to give him that the research he put into the work was masterful and I did learn things about the life and death of Poe that I did not know. It also made me want to read more of Poe’s work and become more familiar with it.    I am not sorry I read the book.  And I think I could give it to someone who likes historical fiction.   I would even consider reading something else that Mr. Rose has on offer next.   

I mean, if you live in Baltimore, you need to read about Poe, right


Entry filed under: books.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doug  |  April 30, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    An excellent review! I swear you should be a professional book reviewer.

  • 2. Dr. Sparky  |  May 1, 2007 at 3:55 am

    Speaking of bad endings, I read Sharp Objects and felt the ending was both rushed and way too predictable. But still not a bad read.


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