Saturday, June 4, 2011

Poe can't get no satisfaction

When we last left our fearless detective Auguste Dupin, he was in a fight for his life, facing off against his mentor and friend, Manfred Von Karma.   

But then everything's resolved by Phoenix Wright's spiky hair, and The Purloined Letter opens with Dupin smoking with his nameless friend. I've avoided the topic of the nameless friend because frankly, the whole thing weirds me out. While it's pretty obvious that our generic narrator—who I am henceforth referring to as Bob—has a serious hero worship for his younger, smarter companion, one wonders if Dupin himself realises this. How do I know that Bob is the older of the two? I just do.

One thing that I've noticed about the Dupin stories is that personages of exalted station are never named.

"The thief," said G., is the Minister D--,

Which, you know, fair enough I suppose, even ignoring the fact that poor old Mary Roget, she who was murdered by a monkey

was named all over the place. I'm highlighting this fact because the first paragraph of the story includes this tidbit:

“... in his little back library, or book-closet, au troisieme, No. 33, Rue Dunot, Faubourg St. Germain.”

Edgar Allan Poe: putting the 'address' in 'stalker' since 1833.

Getting back to the narrative: Bob and Dupin are hanging around and smoking in the Frenchiest way possible when the Prefect of the Police shows up. It's never really revealed why the Prefect would ever want or need to strike up a friendship with a shiftless, overly wealthy, uninspired...

"Proceed," said I.
"Or not," said Dupin.” I'm going to marry, so y'all can just shut up. The “police who need the detective to solve their cases” thing quite nearly prompted me to make some unkind comparisons to the Sherlock Holmes/Lestrade dynamic, but then I remembered that the Dupin stories were technically written first, and I had to go to my happy place for ten minutes.

The Prefect, G-Dawg, has come to vaguely sort of tell Dupin a vague, sort of story about a thing that was probably stolen and that might cause some unpleasant things. After a long series of slightly more specific questions it is revealed that it was in fact a letter that was stolen, by the uncouth Minister D-Bag. Why G-Dawg didn't mention this right at the beginning escapes me. Perhaps he's being coy.

The crux of the issue—and please, feel free to imagine a trio of wealthy Frenchmen smoking languidly throughout this whole part, because Poe sure mentions it a lot

is that the French police have already scoured the rooms of the evil Minister D-Bag, and have so far been unable to locate the, ah-ha-ha, purloined letter.

G-Dawg goes to great lengths to describe how, ah, thorough the police have been in their search for this extremely important document

One gets the sense that the rest of the force is back at the police station, creating a flowchart to detail how they're going to burn this man's apartment down. Dupin says something snarky and sarcastic, and the Prefect leaves.

The story resumes, inexplicably, about a month later, with the purloined letter still undiscovered. Perhaps I am not familiar enough with politics to understand why some lady's letter still matters a month later, but it does. Before I get too much further, I want to make something really clear:

Dupin already knows how to find the letter.

Yeah, he just sat around for a month with his thumb jammed up his ass. Poor G-Dawg has been running around, probably called incompetent, may even be fearful that his job is in jeopardy—and Dupin was too busy smoking to help him.

The engagement's over, but I ain't givin' back the ring.

Oh, it gets better. As my G-Man is lamenting his luck, flashback images of the mustache-twirling D-Bag surely dancing in his imagination, Dupin asks what kind of reward is being asked for the return of the letter. This should be an “AH-HA!” moment for G-Dilly, but cut him some slack—he's supposed to support his poor aged mother on his pension, and he's about to lose his job. Dupin doesn't have to worry about this, because he's independently wealthy, and also has the letter in his desk.


Ok, Dupin didn't steal it. But if I were the Prefect of the Parisian police, I would sure as fuck arrest him on suspicion, the little twat.

The rest of the story involves Dupin detailing how he applied his massive brain toward finding the letter, by looking for a letter, where a letter is meant to be. Do you get it? It was in the letter holder.

This explanation takes 10 PARAGRAPHS.