An intriguing introduction starts off this collection of Edgar Allan Poe's chilling tales of horror and madness. An imaginary application blank is completed with biographical facts about Poe at the age of 21, followed by a discussion of some of the more puzzling aspects of Poe's life, such as, how could Poe, a poet, also have a career in the military? Why was there no formal adoption by Poe's guardian once Poe's parents were deceased? Poe enthusiasts will enjoy learning details about the writing career of this master of nightmarish storytelling either before or after they read his tales of terror.
The tales in this collection are some of Poe's finest work: "The Cask of Amontillado," for example, is a tale of sadistic impulse that details how Montresor gets even with Fortunado by committing the perfect crime of revenge. In "Hop-Frog," Poe sympathizes with a crippled dwarf who enacts a terrible crime of vengeance against those who humiliate him. "The Fall of the House of Usher" details the dreadful, premature burial of Lady Madeline Usher by her brother, Richard, and the destruction of their sinister, melancholy mansion. The five other stories in the collection — "MS. Found in a Bottle," "Ligeia," "William Wilson," "The Masque of the Red Death," and "The Imp of the Perverse" — also portray strange, but believable, worlds.
Although Poe's Victorian-era language may be a little foreign to today's reader, the eerie situations have a gripping reality that more than makes up for any difficulty.