The Blackest Bird

Publisher: Anchor Canada
New York, the sweltering summer of 1841: Mary Rogers, a beautiful counter girl at a popular Manhattan tobacco shop, is found brutally murdered in the Hudson River. John Colt, scion of the firearm fortune, beats his publisher to death with a hatchet. And young Irish gang leader Tommy Coleman is accused of killing his daughter, his wife, and his wife's former lover. Charged with solving it all is High Constable Jacob Hays, the city's first detective. Capping a long and distinguished career, Hays's investigation will involve gang wars, grave robbers, and clues hidden in poems by that master of dark tales, Edgar Allan Poe.

With a multilayered plot and rich, terse prose, The Blackest Bird is both a gripping mystery and a convincing portrait of the New York underworld in its early days. At its heart is Hays' unlikely connection with Poe, who like many other men was in love with Mary Rogers. In its deeply textured world, full of bloodshed and duplicity, only a few innocent relationships — such as Hays' tender bond with his daughter — provide any comfort and hope.


From the Hardcover edition.

READ AN EXCERPT

1
July 26, 1841,
Midnight

Make no mistake, the task at hand affects him deeply.

He is not entirely ­cold-­blooded after all.

Still he proceeds, tearing long strips from the hem of her dress, tying the white lengths around her waist and neck, fashioning a crude makeshift handle...
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PRAISE FOR

“The excitement of chasing grave robbers, life on death row in the Tombs, and the filth and sickness of the city immerse this novel in an atmosphere of uncertainty and change. The famous names and places it features bring intrigue and dark passions to play with a familiar history and literature. A good mystery.” --Library Journal

“The swagger of this gang-riddled city is ably drawn, and the fast-paced narrative is dense with clues, making the deciphering exhilarating. But this is also an engaging window onto the petty pilfering and brutal bloodshed of a young New York.” --Telegraph


“It’s almost as if the late Edward Gorey wrote something like E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime; the kind of thing that could be a bestseller or big-budget movie.” —Toronto Star

“Joel Rose (and High Constable Hays) put Poe himself into the life and death of Mary Rogers, and it all works beautifully. . . . Rose has exhaustively researched his time and place, and his mid-century New York is a wonderfully bawdy, earthy place full of fascinating characters. The plot weaves a lot, blending real history, Rose’s fiction and Poe’s fiction. . . . I never tired of it.” — Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

“Rose claims to have spent 17 years working on this novel, and it shows. Meticulously researched, it successfully captures the optimism as well as the murky atmosphere of the period. Whether it is in the buzzing newspaper offices of the New York Herald, the dank cells of the Tombs prison, or the narrow alleyways of Five Points in lower Manhattan where the infamous gangs of New York roamed, Rose's narrative feels authentic. The city in all of its frenzy, squalour and corruption of the era comes to life in his pages.” -- Winnipeg Free Press

“The swagger of this gang-riddled city is ably drawn, and the fast-paced narrative is dense with clues, making the deciphering exhilarating. But this is also an engaging window onto the petty pilfering and brutal bloodshed of a young New York.” —The Telegraph

“Irresistibly seductive…. Murder mystery, historical novel, portal to another time; The Blackest Bird is a masterpiece.”
—Anthony Bourdain

“Rose has caught the wild spirit of Poe’s New York with terrific panache. It is a vivid picture of the city . . . teeming with big, brash characters and driven by a relentlessly entertaining narrative.”
—Patrick McGrath


From the Hardcover edition.