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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning" by Joe R. Lansdale

First appeared in Paul Kane and Charles Prepolec's Beyond Rue Morgue. Reprinted by Paula Guran.

Dupin and the anonymous narrator look into a blue-fire lightning bolt. Dupin is an Archie Goodwin who does Dupin's footwork into the investigation. He misses things that Dupin does not from simply reading a newspaper article about the same event, such as the lightning starts from the ground and goes up.

Little by little, the story gets stranger. An ape and a decaying man procure body parts and spill some on the streets. The ape was formerly a man who has been in dabbling in powers he ought not to...
Discussion With an Oblique Spoiler:
Of the Auguste Dupin stories in this anthology, this one captures more of Poe's original voice, flavored with a dash of Arthur Conan Doyle and a splash of Nero Wolfe. The characters (Dupin and the anonymous narrator) have a bit more personality Poe's originals. It also plays in ideas from the original stories. It folds in basic Lovecraftian tropes to add a little cosmic horror.

It begins with a well-controlled Dupin tribute, and interesting ratiocination, and ends up in Lovecraftian territory. The ape from the original is a stroke of imaginative genius--a nod to Poe's "Murder in the Rue Morgue" with a new twist. One might hope for a resolution derived a bit more from Dupin's reasoning brain than Lovecraft's overpowering cosmic horror. The two universes would seem to come to conflict: Dupin's "There's a method behind this madness." vs. Lovecraft's "We're doomed! Everyone, run for your lives!"

Strangely, the story ends on a note that feels more Lovecraftian in tone:
"...a bright badge of normalcy, that from here on out I knew was a lie."

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