The Mystery of Mary Roget is a classic piece of mystery writing that has inspired a great deal of other thrillers and mysteries of the likes of Sherlocke Holmes in the years to come. It is touted as a sequel to The Murders at Rue Morgue and was one of the first attempts to create a story with a step by step series of logical arguments used to solve a case. The story chronicles real life facts that took place in New York but the fictional account is provided with the backdrop of Paris instead. In the story as in life itself, Mary Cecilia Rogers is a young girl armed with arresting beauty who earns her living selling cigars in a shop to a bevy of gentlemen ranging from poets to businessmen.She lives with her widowed mother and they scrape their living from money earned from her job as a shop girl and by putting up with boarders in their home. The spellbinding beauty of Mary is not overlooked by the young men who are the usual occupants of the boarding rooms in their home. She becomes most sought after with young, handsome suitors of all backgrounds lining up asking for a chance to be her lover.
During her stint as a cigar girl, the whole city of New York is suddenly gripped by a wild frenzy one day when Mary is reported missing and her whereabouts are not known to anyone. After a gap of a few days, when Mary returns to the city, she is completely taken aback and scared by the amount of attention and furore her disappearance seems to have caused. This matter is quickly hushed up by friends and family members who claim that she has returned after visiting a relation.
In a matter of a few days, this incident is forgotten as Mary returns to work just as before.Interest in this incident is brought to the fore again when after a gap of one or two years however, Mary's badly mutilated and molested body is found in the river. On the day of her murder, Mary is said to have informed her lover Daniel Payne of visiting an aunt's house and subsequently requested him to come and accompany her home when she returns. However, on account of bad weather, Payne assumes that Mary will return the next day and he stays home. When Mary does not return, a thorough search is conducted and finally her body is fished out of the river Seine.
Edgar Allan Poe through a compilation of real newspaper articles of the day presents a picture of the events surrounding this brutal murder and attempts to provide a final solution to the mystery and satisfy the curiosity of the public. He creates a detective who goes by the name of Auguste C. Dupin who is blessed with a lot of intelligence and acumen and acutely peals off different layers of the case in a step by step manner. He supports all his inferences with sound logical arguments and does not blindly go by popular opinion or journalists' viewpoints. He points the finger of suspicion to all the possible suspects including Mary's lover, a jilted suitor, a suspicious woman running a lodge who comes forward with claims of having housed Mary and a gang of rogues.
The story closes with a paragraph that is believed to be a truly remarkable piece of writing. Edgar Allan Poe leaves the reader to draw conclusions using his own imagination and provides vital clues that may help one to arrive at a sound and satisfactory answer depending on one's intellect. He suspects that Mary may have been murdered by her lover in a fit of jealous rage or raped by a gang of ruffians. She may also have lost her life while undergoing a complicated abortion procedure that was deemed illegal in those days. However, the author also argues that the signs of struggle on Mary's body indicate otherwise.
The Mystery of Mary Roget is far from an open and shut case and the well-written story with elements of thrill woven in has inspired writers and filmmakers of many subsequent generations.