The Last Dickens
Review: Matthew Pearl blends fact and fiction, and posits a plausible solution to mystery surrounding Charles Dickens' final, unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood in The Last Dickens, the author's third suspense novel to feature historic literary figures.
Dickens' novel relates the story of Edwin Drood, an honest if sometimes disturbed young man, who vanishes after provoking the anger of his devious uncle. Dickens had promised his publishers, Fields and Osgood in Boston, that the book would have a curious and new ending. The publishers had been serializing the novel monthly in their trade magazine, anticipating a total of twelve installments. Six of a twelve installments had already been printed. The final installments were en route from London to Boston when Dickens died. A young man from the publishing company, Daniel Sand, was sent to accept delivery of the package at the wharf. After he signs for it, but before he can deliver it, he is killed and the package disappears. James Osgood has a few mindful questions: Who knew the package of installments was aboard the vessel? What could the thief gain by stealing the package? No one could publish the work as it would immediately be discovered. Believing the package to be irrevocably lost, Osgood decides to go to London to determine if there might be other copies of the novel in Dickens' workroom. Maybe he had told someone about the novel and how the mystery would end. Before he leaves, though, Osgood is reminded by his partner Fields that the purpose of his trip is solving the mystery of the Edwin Drood manuscript, not to create a new mystery of his own making.
This fictional literary mystery within a factual literary mystery is absolutely captivating. Daniel's death appears to be accidental, but he was fleeing from someone with a menacing cane, one with the head of a horned beast, when he's run down by an omnibus. A lawyer, Sylvanus Bendall, is nearby and tries to help, but can do nothing before Daniel dies. Bendall takes possession of Daniel's package and realizes immediately what it is, and how valuable it potentially is. In the meantime, Osgood sails from Boston to London accompanied by Daniel's sister, Rebecca. On board, he's attacked by someone with an identical cane possessed by the person who stalked Daniel. While in London, Osgood and Rebecca are taken through underground tunnels, ghastly opium dens, and anywhere else literary pickpockets and bookaneers frequent, all in an effort to locate a copy of the missing novel.
Atmospheric and cleverly plotted, The Last Dickens is a brilliant novel that proposes an innovative solution to one of the literary world's most enduring mysteries. Readers will have a hard time putting down.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Last Dickens.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a trade paperback edition of The Last Dickens for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Random House (Hardcover), February 2012
ISBN-13: 9781400066575; ISBN-10: 1400066573
Location(s) referenced in The Last Dickens: New York City, London, England
— ♦ —
The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
Publisher: Random House
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: October 2009
List Price: $15.00
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites