Thursday, June 18, 2009
THE LAST DICKENS
TITLE: THE LAST DICKENS
AUTHOR: MATTHEW PEARL
This is the third literary thriller by Matthew Pearl and as in THE DANTE CLUB and THE POE SHADOW, he once again does a wonderful job of taking real historical events and people and placing them in a fiction situation full of danger and suspense.
This story has two central figures; James R. Osgood, the American Publisher of Charles Dickens, and Rebecca Sand, one of his firms bookkeepers.
When the book starts, Rebecca's younger brother Daniel dies while collecting the latest instalment of Dickens' latest book "The Mystery of Edwin Drood".
When Dickens himself subsequently dies, Osgood and Rebecca travel to England hoping to find clues as to how Dickens was going to finish the book.
Danger starts creeping up on them even on the journey over to England. Our heroes are not the only ones with a huge interest in finding the elusive ending, and others are prepared to do anything to find the missing half of the book.
While all of this is going on the story also goes back a few years to describe Dickens' last literary tour of America, and it takes us to Bengal in India where one of Dickens' sons is a police officer trying to deal with the illegal trade in opium.
These apparently separate story lines all come together by the end of the book to provide satisfying explanations that aren't too neat.
The last Dickens is not a "thrill on every page" sort of mystery. Instead it is a very well researched historical novel filled with fascinating facts and a constant undercurrent of danger.
I now know more about Dickens, the history of American publishers and the trade in opium than I ever did, and picked all the knowledge up while enjoying a good read.
Having met Dickens, the man, in these pages, I suddenly feel the need to read more by Dickens, the author.