Somehow, I have missed out on any in-depth study of the literature of the nineteenth century and consequently many texts that others take for granted I have only encountered if the whim has so taken me. My whim has never extended to Poe. I've read some of his poems and we used to use a short story, The Oval Portrait, as a means of introducing our first year undergrads to the novel thought that we might be interested in hearing their views about a text rather than simply having our own thoughts parroted back to us, but other than that my whim had never been wafted in Poe's direction. Thus, horror the first.
Horror the second comes with the murders themselves. You seriously don't want to be reading this book if you have any sort of squeamish stomach. Whatever anyone might say about the violence in present day crime fiction (and I was watching a seriously graphic televised version of one of Val McDermid's books the other evening that was enough to turn anyone's insides with the exception of the victim, whose insides were already thoroughly 'turned') it has nothing on what Poe describes here. You will have second and third thoughts about your safety, even behind locked doors, after you've shivered your way through this story, I can tell you.
But, horror the third comes when you find out whodunit. Don't worry, I'm not going to give the game away, but what a ..........! If you tried that in a modern novel you'd never get it past the publisher - at least I hope you wouldn't.
Having said that, in many ways this isn't typical of how crime fiction has developed over the intervening years. You can see how it leads to Sherlock Holmes, with the emphasis on close analysis of the detail of the crime and its surroundings and I suppose that does relate to some extent to those books that rely to a large extent on the use of the forensic sciences, but in truth this is a justification of a particular mode of thought, a specific cast of mind, that just happens to play itself out through the medium of a crime. Catching the perpetrator is secondary really.
Nevertheless, I'm glad I've read it and can now move on to other material from the period that is new to me. Next up is M E Brandon's Lady Audley's Secret, which is another book I should have read years ago. Fortunately a friend whose judgement I trust implicitly read this last year and loved it, so with luck I should fare better. No more horrors, I hope.