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The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
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The Last Dickens (2009)

by Matthew Pearl

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0355312,326 (3.51)79
  1. 10
    Drood by Dan Simmons (suzecate)
    suzecate: They're historical mystery/thriller set in Victorian England and involving Charles Dickens.
  2. 00
    The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (Cecrow)
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1870. Charles Dickens is dead. He leaves behind a struggling publisher, a bereaved public, and an unfinished novel. The Mystery of Edwin Drood promised to be Dickens' masterpiece, equally adored and misunderstood, and revolved around the question of whether the young hero was murdered or in hiding. Now the mystery will never be solved; the novel is only half written.

Or is it?

It falls to James Osgood, Dickens' American publisher, to find out the truth. Along the way, he must fight opiate dealers, cutthroat publishers, and Dickens' close friends' diverging opinions about the possible endings to Drood. What he discovers is intriguing: could Drood's missing ending hold the key to a real-life murder mystery?

The novel is intriguing, a literary thriller written by a master of suspense. Pearl does an excellent job of incorporating period details without ever slowing the pace. There were facts that I didn't know. Did you know that Dickens offered to tell Queen Victoria the ending of Drood? Or that Dickens was stalked by a female admirer? Or that an American tax collector blackmailed the Dickens staff?

The book is divided into six installments (the same number of installments as Drood had at the time of Dickens' death) and they flip from the present (after his death) and past (while Dickens is on a book tour in America). At times, the structure can be confusing; after one or two of the flashbacks, I had difficulty remembering exactly what had happened in the previous section regarding the present day action. Overall, though, that structure heightened the suspense and revealed Dickens the man and how much the public craved his writings.

I enjoyed the characters, especially Dickens' publisher James Osgood (a historical figure) and Tom Branagan (a fictional character) who acts as Dickens porter on his last American tour. Most of all, I enjoyed learning more about the time period and exploring the possibility of what might have been the ending of the author's last novel. Edwin Drood may be an unsolved mystery, but The Last Dickens' ending is satisfying.
( )
  MeredithRankin | Jun 7, 2019 |
If you're going to use the name Dickens in your title, expectations for that book are going to be even higher. Fortunately, Matthew Pearl not only meets those expectations, but exceeds every one.
It isn't necessary to have ever read a page of Charles Dickens' writing to get wrapped up in this account of Dickens' final, and unfinished, novel. With fast pacing, plot twists galore, and memorable characters, there isn't a thing about this book I didn't love. Highly recommended for anyone who loves historical fiction! ( )
  ErinMa | Feb 22, 2019 |
A bit slow to get into but well worth the journey. Great unraveling mystery though last chapter was weak. Some chapters seemed to be tacked on as a diversion. Good story. ( )
  egalebuck | Jun 5, 2018 |
Couldn’t resist the combination of two of my favorite things: Charles Dickens and a good mystery. Found the parts about Charles Dickens worthwhile, but the mystery was a disappointment.

The plot, such as it is: Charles Dickens has died, and his U.S. publishing house faces a quandary. The young lad who was supposed to deliver to them the initial chapters of Dickens’ last work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, has himself died under mysterious circumstances, before he could complete the expected delivery. What to do but to send a representative of the publisher (accompanied by a comely young company bookkeeper) to England to retrieve the chapters before they’re pirated by unethical U.S. competitors? And, as long as they’re there, why not investigate the possibility that Dickens actually completed the final chapters, but secreted them away?

My favorite chapters of the book re-create Dickens’ final U.S. tour. One thing Pearl has always done well is stuff his novels with authentic period detail, and his depiction of America’s obsession with Dickens is refreshingly faithful to the historical record. As a bibliophile myself, I love imagining a time when Americans stood in block-long lines, sometimes overnight, for tickets to hear authors perform dramatic readings from their canon. Pearl also incorporates some interesting insight into the state of the publishing industry and copywrite law in the mid/late 1800s.

However, the pleasure I derived from these chapters wasn’t enough to reconcile me to the book’s many deficits, to include numerous plot holes (I’m sorry, but seriously – in the real world, there’s no way Osgood & Rebecca arrive in England before the pirated pages are on their way to the U.S. by a ship headed in the opposite direction), tangential subplots (one gets the sense that the bits set in Bengal have more to do with Pearl showing off his scholarship than actual plot development), a pair of protagonists as lively as cardboard cutouts (not much smarter than cardboard cutouts, come to that), a romantic subplot entirely lacking in passion, and an over-reliance on improbability that, by the end of the story, borders on preposterous. I get that Pearl is trying to weave the plot of Edwin Drood into the tale, but instead of a seamless garment, this reads more like a quilt fashioned out of pieces that don't quite fit.

In other words, I can’t in good conscious recommend this as a worthwhile read. I can, however, hope that folks who complete the tale will be inspired to read the real Edwin Drood and draw their own conclusions: is Edwin dead and stuffed in a church crypt, or laying quietly in wait until he can safety expose his uncle’s perfidy? Whatever ending Dickens intended, I’m confident it would have been more satisfying than this uneven outing. ( )
1 vote Dorritt | Jan 15, 2017 |
I mostly loved this book. The characters and story were fascinating.
My only criticism is similar to that of other reviewers. The scenes set in India seemed superfluous. I kept expecting some direct connection to appear but it really was just background detail. It actually was a very interesting side-note and might have made a great separate novel but entwined with this one, the narrative just got lost. Otherwise a great read. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Dec 5, 2016 |
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Neither of the young mounted policemen fancied these subdivisions of the Bagirhaut province.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Boston, 1870. When the news of Charles Dicken's sudden death reaches his struggling American publisher, James Osgood sends his trusted cler, Daniel Sand, to await the arrival of Dicken's unfinished final manuscript. But Daniel never returns, and when his body is discovered by the docks, Osgood must embark on a quest to find the missing end to the novel and unmask the killer. With Daniel's sister Rebecca at his side, Osgood races the clock through a dangerous web of opium dens, sadistic thugs, and literary lions to solve a genius's last mystery and save his own life-and the life of the woman he loves. (978-0-8129-7802-5)
Haiku summary
True or false: Dickens
died before he could finish
his last book. Discuss.
(passion4reading)

No descriptions found.

(see all 2 descriptions)

Boston, 1870. When news of Charles Dickens's untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields & Osgood, partner James Osgood sends Daniel Sand to take possession of the unfinished novel. When Sand is killed, Osgood and Rebecca Sand journey to England determined to recover the manuscript and stop a murderous mastermind.… (more)

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Matthew Pearl is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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Matthew Pearl chatted with LibraryThing members from Oct 5, 2009 to Oct 16, 2009. Read the chat.

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