“The Poe Consequence”
By: Keith Steinbaum
Published: March 2012
“The Poe Consequence” is a paranormal thriller set in present day Los Angeles, California. The story centers around an 11 year old boy named Seth Palmer, his father, Warren Palmer, and his uncle, Kevin Palmer.
We begin in New Orleans where Warren, a college poetry professor in L.A. who is obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe’s work, seeks a psychic to tell him if he has gotten a position he applied for at USC. After some searching and divine intervention, he finds Madame Sibilia. During his tarot reading we find out that part of his past is filled with pain. Warren explains that Seth’s mother, Michelle, has died only months ago from cancer. She continues and foretells Warren’s death and explains that after his he will become a restless spirit seeking revenge, and in the process of revenge will become evil. Not wanting to hear anymore, he runs out of her shop before learning the last card of his fortune and jumps on a plane back to L.A.
Days later, Warren and Kevin take Seth to a Dodger’s game and before going home, Warren has to stop at a local market to get aspirin for a building migraine. In the parking lot, on their way out of the store a gang, the North Rampart Lobos, takes Warren’s wallet and threatens them both. While the Lobos are terrorizing them a rival gang, Alvarado Street Diablos, conduct a drive by shooting to exact revenge for the Lobos murdering one of their own. Through the scrambling of bodies and bullets flying, Warren is shot and killed. Now alone, Seth goes to live with his Uncle Kevin who drinks all day and then works nights as a news reporter for the L.A. Times and Daily News.
While we continue to follow Seth and Kevin as they struggle to adjust, young and healthy Lobo’s and Diabol’s are dying of heart attacks. We follow members of each gang as they experience a series of nightmarish symptoms right out of the work’s of Edgar Allen Poe before each heart stops at 4:00 AM. The L.A. police investigate and discover a pattern; a gang related murder has taken place prior to every heart attack. Curious, it’s almost like…revenge.
Keith Steinbaum does an excellent job holding the readers attention as he weaves an emotional tale of a young boy struggling to trust the adults in his life as he tries to make sense of life’s tragedies. I’ve cheered for characters as they overcome their obstacle’s, but the empathy I felt for Seth was more intense than I’ve felt before. I contribute my strong reaction to Seth’s character to the author’s ability to portray the hurt and anger felt by a young boy forced to learn some early lessons in adulthood. As I read, I’m appreciative of the time and thought the author poured into developing his characters. Veronica and Alex are two supporting character’s who come into the lives of the Palmer’s when Seth falls behind in school and begins fighting with some of the Latino students. The story then transforms further and we see a heart warming group of people develop and grow individually as they provide support and encouragement for one another.
The book does fall short in its attempt at involving the paranormal. The concept that a victim of a shooting extends beyond the grave to exact his revenge by using various theatrical themes from the works of Edgar Allen Poe is very ambitious. Unfortunately, the author is unsuccessful at his attempt to develop this concept. It seemed Mr. Steinbaum was content with leaving abstract description of after-life events and trusting the reader to make sense of his concept of revenge turning a spirit evil. To me, it felt incomplete, disjointed and placed too much responsibility on the audience to be a successful part of the book. It would have been more advantageous to leave this concept out of the book all together.
Overall, I enjoyed the story our author was able to tell, but felt the paranormal and spiritual part of the book was neglected and unsuccessful.