Rossrn Nunamaker's Reviews > The Last Dickens

The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
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's review
Nov 03, 14

bookshelves: fiction, detective-crime
Read in March, 2009

I loved the first two books of Matthew Pearl, The Dante Club and the Poe Shadow, and couldn't wait to read his latest The Last Dickens.

I wasn't let down. This is arguably the best of the three in a photo-finish. The story is told along two time-lines, one following Dickens death and the other following his second reading tour of America.

It wasn't Marley, but Dickens who was dead to set off a search for information that would lead to the intended conclusion of his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This tale depicting a runaway who becomes an opium addict/trader was being released as a serial, and half of the twelve installments were written and released, but the final six were unknown, at the time Dickens died.

Trouble began when Dickens' American publisher, Osgood and Fields, attempted to pick up the pages of the first six installments. Their employee Daniel Sands was later found run over by a carriage and no papers were found. The police told the publisher the young man was taking opium and blindly ran into the street. Troubling as the report was, the evidence was clear - an injection mark in the man's arm.

The firm could get replacement pages, but was also intent on finding the intended conclusion for their edition before pirateer publishing houses flooded the market with their own versions which would cost the company tremendously given the money paid in advance.

Young, honest, James Osgood sets out from Boston with bookkeeper Rebecca Sand, to track down information to help his publishing house have the most accurate account of the book's end. On the ship Osgood becomes friends with Mr. Wakefield, a London Tea Merchant, and in London winds up on a harrowing chase to track evidence or clues about Dickens' intentions for the ending. Having a near-death experience, recovering, and questioning whether or not an ending is to be had, Osgood returns to Boston with Ms. Sand and enroute is again stimulated by a possible answer - which awaits them in Boston, the place they are heading.

The pace is much faster than previous works by Pearl and the twists and turns keep building to a conclusion that pulls together the entire work.

Again, very much enjoyed this work, great suspense and mystery set post-civil war at a time that is not so far past, yet seems it, with well known historical figures.


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