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Historical thriller: ‘The Last Dickens’

By Jessica Schneider Jun 4, 2009, 16:15 GMT

Historical thriller: ‘The Last Dickens’

In his most enthralling novel yet, the critically acclaimed author Matthew Pearl reopens one of literary history’s greatest mysteries. The Last Dickens is a tale filled with the dazzling twists and turns, the unerring period details, and the meticulous research that thrilled readers of the bestsellers The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow.Boston, 1870. When news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher, Fields ...more

This new historical thriller from Matthew Pearl tries to solve the mystery regarding the author’s unfinished “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

The NYT notes: “It’s June 1870, and Charles Dickens falls victim to a stroke midway through his serial “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” leaving the story a genuine whodunit. How will readers survive without knowing how it ends? And how will Dickens’s American publisher, the struggling firm of Fields, Osgood & Company, survive without the profits from his book?”

The reviewer also notes: “Pearl juggles too many narrative strands for a compact novel (compact relative to “Our Mutual Friend,” at any rate); weaving them together forces him to resort to exposition at inopportune moments, throwing off the pace. The subplot set in India and centered on Dickens’s son Frank, a supervisor in the Bengal Mounted Police with his own interest in the opium trade, is a promising gesture but never pays off.”

Published by Random House, PW notes: “Some awkward prose distracts ("There were several other grim faces at dinner that, like some imperceptible force, spread a dark cloud over the levity"), while the ending may strike some readers as a cop-out.”

The NYT has provided a first chapter. The book was released March 17th.


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