The Tell-Tale Start by Gordon McAlpine

The Tell-Tale StartInformation

Goodreads: The Tell-Tale Start
Series: The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe #1
Source: Library
Published: 2013
Illustrations by Sam Zuppardi


Edgar and Allan Poe, descendants of the famous author, are more than identical twins.  They know what the other thinks, experiences, and feels.  Their parents died seven years ago in a mysterious accident.  Now it seems someone is after them, as well.  But Edgar and Allan have something of their ancestor’s cleverness.  And could it be that the great Poe is actually sending them warnings from the afterlife?


The Tell-Tale Start is a fun, quirky book that manages to celebrate the macabre stories of Edgar Allan Poe without ever becoming too gruesome, even for middle graders. In fact, though the Poe twins delight in the stories of their famous ancestor, dressing up as characters from his work every year for Halloween and even creating a terribly realistic haunted house, the focus lies not on their love of the morbid but on their exceptional cleverness and their unique ability to know what the other is seeing, doing, and thinking. The tone throughout remains light-hearted and even a brush with death will probably not scare readers too much.

Pinning down exactly what type of story this is proves a little difficult. It contains aspects of mystery, but readers hold essentially all the clues. It is a little reminiscent of those treasure-hunty kinds of middle grade books, but the Poes are not really looking for anything. It celebrates the gothic, but is not scary. It introduces boy geniuses, but the boys never do anything particularly ingenious, at least not while trying to save their own lives. It introduces quantum mechanics, but is not science fiction. Whatever it is, however, it’s good stuff.

Edgar and Allan are fun protagonists, always ready to pull a prank, but never in a mean-spirited way. They try to use their powers for good, in a little boy sort of way, where they tend to think the ends justify the means. They have quite the heart, showing a love for Poe, their cat, and the relatives who adopted them. They are also clever, funny, and daring. Readers almost cannot help but cheer them on.

And then the book just keeps getting weirder. Edgar Allan Poe is in the afterlife trying to send his descendents messages to keep them out of trouble. He has a new job there. It’s not quite as good as the job he used to have, but it keeps him writing. And his boss is William Shakespeare, who turns out to be much grumpier and much more pompous than I would have supposed either from his writings or from the few clues we have about his life. Still, it is all pretty funny.

This is one of the more original books I have read for some time and I enjoyed every moment of it. From the pranks of Edgar and Allan to the bumbling attempts of the original Poe to communicate from the afterlife, the book pulsed with fun and humor. This is a promising start for a new series.

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