Historical thriller: ‘The Last Dickens’

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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