The story starts out in Paris, France. The first character that the readers meet is C. Auguste Dupin.
The story is also told from a narrator’s point of view, and the narrator is not given a name, which in turn adds to the suspense of the story. It starts with a suspenseful mood on the very first page by mentioning that a woman, Marie Rogêt, was murdered and that it was a mystery. The three characters, Dupin, Monsieur G, the Parisian police Prefect, and the unknown narrator are all trying to figure out what happened to the purloined, or stolen, letter. It then becomes very confusing and convoluted when these characters begin trying to work through the logic of what the robber knows or what the “loser” knows of what the robber knows.
This becomes very twisted and unintelligible the longer it goes on, adding to the suspense factor. What the reader can make out is that the antagonist, Minister D, finds a letter that a woman found. This letter that the woman found contains information that could prove detrimental to a powerful person in Paris. Then, Minister D figures this out and places a similar letter in the place of the purloined one inside the woman’s apartment.
Dupin, the protagonist, converses with the police after this all takes place. He asks if the police have searched the apartment, then the Prefect, Monsieur G, goes on a lengthy monologue about the scrupulous searching of the entire apartment building, noting that he used more than ample scrutiny while conducting this search, even going so far as to say that he did not content himself with just a simple shake of a book, but that he rather turned through every single page of every single book in the library to make sure that the letter was not hidden away between two pages. After this extremely long conversation, Dupin suggests that the police re-search the apartment and apartment building, which comes up fruitless.
Later, the reward has doubled and the Prefect still is unable to find the letter. He even remarks that the Parisian Police are now offering fifty-thousand francs for anyone who can find the letter. Then, Dupin demands that a check for exactly that amount of money be written, immediately. As soon as it is, he gives the Prefect the letter. He says that the police could not find it because they only thought to look where they would hide the letter, not where a criminal, such as Minister D, would have hidden it.
Then, Dupin recounts the tales of how he retrieved the letter from Minister D, including a maneuver that would sabotage Minister D. He does this because of an incident they had in Vienna and he saw this as an opportunity to get revenge that he has long since sought, bringing the story to a close.