The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder
A gruesome murder, a stunned city, and Edgar Allan Poe come to life with vivid detail in this shocking true story by award-winning author Daniel Stashower.
On July 28, 1841, the battered body of a young woman was found floating in the Hudson River. It was soon discovered to be the lovely Mary Rogers, a twenty-year-old cigar salesgirl who had gone missing three days earlier. By nightfall, news of the girl’s death had spread and sent Manhattan into a spasm of horror and outrage.
In the months that followed, the gruesome details of the murder pushed American journalism into previously unimagined realms of lurid sensationalism. But despite media pressures, New York City’s unregulated and disjointed police force proved unable to mount an effective investigation, and the crime remained unsolved.
A year after Mary Rogers was murdered, as public interest in the case began to wane, a struggling writer named Edgar Allan Poe decided to take on the case. At the time of the murder, thirty-one-year-old Poe had recently published his groundbreaking detective story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” A year later, however, his fortunes had taken a downward turn. Desperate for success, Poe sent his famous detective, C. Auguste Dupin, on the case of a lifetime: to solve the baffling murder of Mary Rogers in “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt.”
In The Beautiful Cigar Girl, Edgar Award-winning author Daniel Stashower deftly captures the drama and mystery of New York in the mid-nineteenth century, illuminating the spellbinding crime that transformed a city.
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In several senses, the 1841 killing of Mary Rogers was America’s first great media murder. When the former Manhattan “cigar girl” was found floating in the Hudson River in July, she was already renowned throughout the city for her beauty and for a previous unexplained disappearance. But in the tabloid fever of penny newspaper wars, her posthumous fame swept the nation. To capitalize on the frenzy, struggling writer Edgar Allan Poe constructed “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” a thinly veiled fiction based on the case. In The Beautiful Cigar Girl, Edgar winner Daniel Stashower artfully interweaves the almost equally tragic stories of a doomed young woman and a deeply troubled genius.