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The Devil’s Scribe by Alma Katsu

The Devil’s Scribe by Alma Katsu is an e-short story released by Simon & Schuster this month, and it’s the first thing I’ve read on my Kindle!  Can you believe it?!  What prompted me to finally read on the Kindle?!  You’ll never guess, well maybe you will by the end of this unconventional review.

“He fell on the bottle before he took a seat, pouring two fingers of whiskey into his wineglass, streaked with the last of a red he’d consumed.  Now that he’d gotten his invitation, his tentative edge fell away, replaced by relief.”  (from the e-story)

Lanore McIlvrae from The Taker (my review) meets with the one and only Edgar Allan Poe by chance in an expensive Baltimore hotel in 1846 after having been gone from America for the last 20 years.  Poe describes himself as an orphan and a widower able to support himself as the “devil’s scribe,” but Lanny seems passingly interested in his life story and the fact that he’s a writer.  However, in spite of her preoccupation with why she came back to America, she walks with this stranger through the streets of Baltimore, careful not to reveal too much of herself to him.

The story raises the idea of telling strangers secrets as a way to unburden the soul without having to deal with the same consequences one would have to deal with should they tell someone they know intimately or should they tell a family member.  It is reminiscent of the relationship between dying soldiers and/or patients and the priest that comes to hear their sins, though in this situation, Poe cannot offer Lanny absolution.

Even in this short story, Katsu is adept at creating tension and suspense as Lanny and her new companion make their way to Boston.  The story is predictable — though because I’ve already read The Taker — but well written.  Readers who know anything about Edgar Allan Poe should realize where the story is headed, but I’ll not give it away.  I really enjoyed learning more about Lanny and her fears, and it will likely play into Katsu’s next book, The Reckoning.

***Reading on the Kindle***

It wasn’t too bad with a short story.  I actually was surprised how I remained focused, but I’m not sure that I can remain focused for a full length novel.  I may try doing that soon, but for now, I’m still a fan of “real” books.

  • Gordon

    I can definitely see the uses of both. The one aspect of the Kindle that I don’t like is that it doesn’t seem like I can reference a page number. I am also not certain how you would go about referencing a book (Location 23455 of 27743?) I suppose it would work….for other Kindle owners, but not anyone that had a physical copy of a book.

    • Yeah, I wouldn’t have a page number to reference for the quote. I really don’t like that.

  • I love them both…right now I’m reading on my Kindle and enjoy it for the most part. I do miss the the fanning of the pages and the covers though! This one sounds interesting indeed!

    • I really liked this short story and cannot wait for part 2 of The Taker series

  • I have a couple of books on Jerry’s Nook Tablet, so I’ll be giving the e-reader a go at some point. I know that I’m not going to give up collecting print books though. Glad you enjoyed this story. I like that it features Poe.

    • I still love print books, but I did love reading this short story on the Kindle.

  • This reminds me that I need to read The Taker. Ereaders haven’t grown on me – maybe I should give them another go.

    • You should read The Taker…what are you waiting for. I think I can read short stories on the Kindle, not sure about poetry or a novel…though.

  • A conversation with Poe sounds like a great base for a short story.

    As far as the Kindle goes…it’ll grow on you. I still like and own many traditional books, but carrying close to 500 ebooks in my purse is a definite perk of the Kindle!

    • I hope it grows on me because I want to start your collections next. I just need a better attention span for those digital readers…on the computer I’m always jumping from one place to another…so its easier for me to focus when I have that physical book in front of me.