No Cheating!

I'm reading The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard. I haven't read his other books, so this is my first experience of him. I'm enjoying it so far (I did a masters in Victorian English, so my taste in reading is sometimes not the taste of the general public), but I am a bit annoyed by one of his ... well, I'll call it a cheat. The story is in first person, told by a cranky old constable who meets a young Edgar Allen Poe and helps solve a murder at West Point. So the constable is educating young Poe and we see some things that foreshadow Poe's future development and career as a writer. All this is fine. What is not fine is that the constable apparently has magic powers, because he somehow comes across or knows clues that we don't see him discover.

HERE BE SPOILERS: So the constable is educating young Poe and we see some things that foreshadow Poe's future development and career as a writer. All this is fine. What is not fine is that the constable apparently has magic powers, because he somehow comes across or knows clues that we don't see him discover. the victim in the book's heart was removed, and the narrator thinks it may have been kept on ice. So he and Poe go to the ice house. Fair enough. Except, and without explanation, the narrator makes Poe get up on the roof of the ice house - which who does that? - and magically, Poe can see the indentations on the ground that are some sort of clue. Yeah, please. Because the narrator gives no reason or impetus whatsoever for making Poe get up on that roof, except as a contrivance to discover clues.

This is a cheat. The idea behind the first person narrative is that we have access to the relevant information the narrator has, even if we don't understand the relevance when we first come across it. (A perfect example of a brillant use of first person, by the way, is The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. Great book.) So the fact that our narrator magically knows stuff based on no evidence we've seen whatsoever ... it's annoying. I hope this is just a one-time thing that Bayard missed, or it's a problem. (Of course, there's also the possibility that the narrator is the murderer, in which case this whole book is a cheat and I'm going to be pissed.)

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