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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 ShadowBoston 1870 When news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of his struggling American publisher Fields Osgood partner James Osgood sends his trusted clerk Daniel Sand to await the arrival of Dickens’s unfinished novel But when Daniel’s body is discovered by the docks and the manuscript is nowhere to be found Osgood must embark on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel that he hopes will save his venerable business and reveal Daniel’s killerDanger and intrigue abound on the journey to England for which Osgood has chosen Rebecca Sand Daniel’s older sister to assist him As they attempt to uncover Dickens’s final mystery Osgood and Rebecca find themselves racing the clock through a dangerous web of literary lions and drug dealers sadistic thugs and blue bloods and competing members of Dickens’s inner circle They soon realize that understanding Dickens’s lost ending is a matter of life and death and the hidden key to stopping a murderous mastermind


10 thoughts on “The Last Dickens

  1. says:

    The first Matthew Pearl novel I read was THE POE SHADOW which was a fascinating concept allowing the reader to experience such a famous and mysterious writer as a real person I felt that the idea was not equaled by the execution in that book I thought I would try one time however so I just finished reading THE LAST DICKENS obviously a novel featuring Charles Dickens Once again the concept was great In both cases the author based his characters and events on true stories and remembrances While it might be jarring to hear the iconic Edgar Allen called Eddie Poe and Dickens called Chief I loved the realism of it The author's research was impeccable and his settings in 1870 London and Boston were rich in atmosphere and mood I learned a tremendous amount about the publishing wars in both countries of which I had no prior knowledge And it was amazing to realize that Charles Dickens was probably bigger in his time than any superstar we have today Picture the reaction to personal appearances by the Beatles and that's pretty much what the public reaction was at the timeMy problems with this book once again had nothing to do with the author's ideas plots or research My criticisms have to do with his writing style First of all the story moves at a snail's pace and was boring than it should have been considering all the murder and mayhem it contained The main problem however was Pearl's disjointed writing style He jumped around so much that the story became unnecessarily hard to follow His sentence composition was often awkward and some sections were so unclear that I had to reread them several times to figure out what in the world he was trying to say Some of the plot twists made little sense and the characters were a bit cardboard All in all I give him an A for the concept but a C for the finished product A disappointment


  2. says:

    35“Looking around it seemed every character from every Dickens novel aristocrat and common pompous and inconspicuous had come to life” The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl is an entertaining novel and a treat for Dickens fanatics such as myself As much as I enjoyed myself however I think that I would have appreciated the book if I hadn't already read and reread and loved The D Case or The Truth About The Mystery Of Edwin Drood by Fruttero and Lucentini The aims of these two works are not exactly one and the same and as a result they unfold in two different directions in a beautiful parallelism as one starts investigating the novel Drood and the other the manuscript Drood and then they both proceed to cross and blur the boundaries between reality and fiction and between fiction and criticism That book now The D Case is a real literary investigation that had me down on my knees in adoration and I guess that the problem is that I expected once again something on that line And truth be told in part I got it only a great scholar equipped with an exceptional and devoted imagination could think of spinning this story around Poe's Philosophy of Composition and make it believable or at least not entirely absurd Other plot devices I liked way less and found way less realistic view spoilerlike Dickens leaving the missing half of the manuscript in America an action that no reasons suffice to explain as I see it hide spoiler


  3. says:

    The first book I read of Matthew Peal was the Last Bookaneer a later publication to the Last Dickens I loved the Last Bookaneer so much and expected same competence in this book But I'm so sorry to say that this book was a disappointment I loved the information given in the book relating to Charles Dicken which in fact gave me a new awareness and new perspective regarding the renowned author I thank Mr Pearl for that But the main plot was so disturbed with some incidental I would say irrelevant sub story line based in Bengal India I also felt that the living years of Charles Dicken as described through his reading tour in America was too detailed It distracted me from the main mystery plot In the final chapters everything slowly put in to place but by that time I was a little exhausted with the reading All these facts contributed to me reading the book at a snail's pace and the slow reading affected all my excitement over the book


  4. says:

    Recipe for a historical mystery 1 Find an unsolved mystery from a past time period 2 Think up a plausible solution for the mystery then take some historical characters and have them discover the truth 3 Come up with a plausible explanation for why if these people solved the mystery it remains unsolved to this dayRecipe for a historical literary mystery repeat the steps above shake vigorously and add a dead writer of your choice Missing manuscripts and unfinished novels are a bonus Serve cold with a nice white wine The Last Dickens is an interesting breed of mystery It's mysterious all right but also historical And it's literary It's like someone has taken three of my favourite ideas mysteries histories and dead writers and caused them to collide in the Victorian era just to see what happens What fun Unfortunately I didn't like The Last Dickens as much as I wanted toI suppose this book will inevitably be compared to Drood so I'll get that out of the way and then not mention it again This book is much better than Drood Its story is superior its characters are enjoyable and it does a much better job exploring the mystery of The Mystery of Edwin DroodStill I found both books difficult to enjoy and now I realize why I'm not convinced there is much mystery to be had To some extent sure it's fun to wonder what ending Dickens had in mind for his final novel But the idea that it was semi biographical based on a true story and the idea that an American publisher would cross the Atlantic to go on a dramatic quest for the lost installments of Edwin Drood it's a stretch and apparently not one I'm willing to takeLet's suppose for the sake of this review that I do believe How compelling is this mystery that Matthew Pearl weaves?James Ripley Osgood is an earnest individual And I hate him He has no depth I know I'm supposed to like him to see him as the hero and to applaud his fortitude and courage To be fair he has good moments—and as a mouthpiece for the pro literary themes of this book he serves his purpose Yet he changes very little in this book and I never feel like I connect with him as a protagonist The same goes for his companion and obvious romantic interest Rebbecca Sand Indeed most of the characters in The Last Dickens are disappointingly drab set pieces instead of actual people Pearl has done a wonderful job recreating the atmosphere for 1870s England and America but it feels like a town full of actors playing very scripted roles Osgood is earnest Rebbecca is clever Major Harper is devilish and Wakefield is diabolical and double crossing Even the great Chief himself Charles Dickens is a mere shadow in this bookAnd what was with that subplot in India with Dickens' son Frank all about? I had hoped it would have some sort of relevance but all it does is demonstrate how the opium trade has affected India But it only directly connects to the main plot once when we learn that the thieves behind the opium heist Frank investigates are suppliers for the book's shadowy villain Which we didn't really need to know And once again Turner and Mason were stock characters Turner is pompous thinks that Dickens got his post as superintendent only on his name and turns out to be dirty Mason is a well meaning idiot The entire plot felt superfluous I'm sad to sayThis careful but ultimately unimpressive construction is endemic to the book as a whole Pearl has created an interesting little simulacrum of Boston complete with wind up publishers police officers and some Irish discrimination every second page But it's a surface world scratch that surface and there's little of interest beneath it Neither the characters nor the story drew me in gripped me and made me want to read The journey in this case was a disappointment However the destination was still a pleasant place to end upThe redeeming aspect of The Last Dickens is thematic Mysteries publishing and poppies aside Pearl manages to capture the atmosphere of a time when people hung on the every word of one man Mr Charles Dickens He conveys the extraordinary lengths to which people will go to discover—or to conceal—Dickens' last words and the allure of a literary mystery In the final chapter Henry Wadsworth Longfellow makes a little author inspired speechI sometimes think dear Mr Osgood that all proper books are unfinished They simply have to feign completion for the convenience of the public If not for publishers no authors would ever reach the end We would have all writers and no readers So you mustn't shed a tear for Drood No there is much to envy about it—I mean that each reader will imagine his or her ideal ending for it and every reader will be happy with their own private finale in their mind It is in a truer state perhaps than any other work of its kind however large we print those words The End And you have made the best of itIt's a wonderful very true speech and one you can tell Pearl has been waiting to spring on us from the beginning of the book So what now? Should I feel vindicated that my original position that the mystery of how Drood ends is immaterial? Should I feel angry or cheated that I've been dragged through a mystery populated by flimsy historical recreations only to have what I already know flung back into my face? I could but no good would come of it That ship has sailed All that's left for me to do now is to conclude that Pearl's heart is in the right place He's got some good messages But his execution is lacking Personally I think the premise was his undoing but your mileage may varyJust remember the moral of the story if you don't like the end you can always make your own up I'm pulling for a sequel in which we find out Dickens didn't die but faked his own death and fled to Australia to join a carnival


  5. says:

    The Last Dickens is a novel by Matthew Pearl published in 2009 The first problem I had with the book was with that year 2009 I don't often read books from years beginning with the number 2 and when I do I find I'm not very good at it Paying attention that is There were none of those long sentences with lots of words that Dickens wrote in his novels this one was about him not by him Which brings me to my next thought on the whole thing and that is while I should be reading books written by Charles Dickens I should probably not be reading any about him Well I've read some biographies about him some I liked some I didn't but this isn't a biography It's a mystery with him as one of the main characters It's been a few weeks since I read the novel and since my computer is on its death bed I haven't been able to keep up with my reviews so I'm not sure I can remember all I would have said at the time I read it but here goes This book should have been split up for me anyway Some of the time we were in America with Dickens on his last trip here most of the rest of the time it is after Dickens has died and we're with Forster and others searching for the rest of his last unfinished book I wish somebody would find the rest of the novel I would love to know where Edwin Drood is myself Then upon occasion we are with Dickens's son in the Far East doing what I can't quite remember so it must not have been too terribly important I did find Forster interesting and wondered often if he was really like that I wanted to like this book than I did and you probably will like it than I did I guess I just would rather read Dickens than read about Dickens That's all of a review I can give you typing on my phone how anyone learns to do this using their thumbs is beyond me it will be nice to some day have a computer I can use all my fingers to type with but for now I'm on to the next book Happy reading


  6. says:

    I wanted to like this novel really I did I love Dickens's novels and pretty much anything to do with Dickens and I have an especial soft spot for Drood But Pearl's novel left me cold I kept trying to get involved in the plot's nefarious twists and turns and to appreciate his trademark authorial touches including the subtle nod at recent Dickens scholars with a postcolonial lens but the novel kept rejecting my attempts at affection It begins with a premise familiar to anyone who has read The D Case or Dickens's own novel Drood itself speculation about the lostunfinished ending to The Mystery of Edwin Drood Pearl sweeps the reader up in Boston transplants her to England and natch India obliquely following 1 the American reading tours of an increasingly fatigued Charles Dickens 2 one of Dickens's sons stationed in India and who happens to be a highly decorated officer hot on the trail of an opium smuggler 3 the travails of an independent publisher moonlighting as a literary private detective and 4 a series of petty or hardened criminals including a half Chinese pirate with a golden cane a few desperate New York journalists a deranged aristocratic fan in love with Dickens think Misery and of course the real villains a soulless rival publishing house Pearl's solution to the Drood question is interesting but worked out in a way that feels purely formulaic rather than compellingThere is so much that could have made this novel really great and instead it was just so so Sorry Mr Pearl but in order to pull off a tour de force of this order you need to be Dickens himself


  7. says:

    On June 9 1870 Charles Dickens died suddenly at his home He was only 58 At the time of his death he was hard at work at a novel called The Mystery of Edwin Drood but he'd only finished half the novel This book follows his American publisher James R Osgood who believed the last half of Drood had been written before Dickens's death and the race to find it before unsavory characters got their hands on the manuscript The synopsis of the book makes it sound right up my alley a mystery about an unfinished book? Written by one of English literature's foremost authors? Set in Victorian times?? Yes please to all of the aboveYet this book left me wanting To me it read like Matthew Pearl was hoping to make it into a screenplay The action scenes felt like they were written to appeal to fans of shoot 'em up blow 'em up movie goers I mean kill the bad guy by dropping a steam powered elevator on him and cause massive gas explosions at the same time just to make sure he is really and truly dead? I still haven't figured out why Pearl included the scenes in India with Dickens's son either That's not quite fleshed out and detracted from the novel Pearl's writing style leaves a lot to be desired He seems to be fond of the cliche which is quite a shame While reading this I felt as though he could write no better than I and I am not author His pacing was extremely slow and I found myself doing other things instead of wanting to pick up this book and devour it It's really a shame because while it's clear that Pearl did a great deal of research to write this book and because his characterizations are so wonderful there's just no compelling reason to READ this novel This novel could have been truly great but Pearl's writing style gets in the way


  8. says:

    As historical novels go I think this one was particularly fascinating in how intricately the events of the story’s fictional characters are interwoven with the actual historical events of Dickens life James Ripley Osgood the junior partner in the American publishing firm representing Charles Dickens sets out in pursuit of clues to the conclusion of Dickens final novel which was left only half finished at the time of his death The completion of the novel is of great import to his American publishers because Dickens is so popular a celebrity that its publication stands between financial success and possible ruin for the firm Murder and mayhem lie along the path of his quest from Boston to London and back Matthew Pearl has caught the flavor of the language and manners of the Victorian age revealing its seamy underbelly of poverty social injustice and drug addiction as it attempted to maintain a class system that justified its continuation Although Victorian authors from Dickens to Arthur Conan Doyle have given insight into the era Pearl’s modern perspective is particularly keen This is a real mystery thriller with twists and turns that keep you guessing until the end


  9. says:

    The works of Charles Dickens have stood the test of time since the 19th century including his final unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood Published as a serial TMoED kept adoring readers eagerly awaiting the next installment Yet when Dickens perished from a stroke midway through the novel the world was aghast at losing its most popular author the public left frantically yearning to know the author’s intentions Was Edwin Drood murdered—and if so who was the killer? Was it Edwin's uncle John Jasper cathedral precenter and opium addict who nursed a malevolent passion for his nephew’s fiancée Rosa Bud? Yeah most likely but then we'll never knowor will we?Penned by the compelling and capable Matthew Pearl The Last Dickens is the third in the bestselling author’s literary trinity impeccably aligned with his two prior novels The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow Like its predecessors The Last Dickens is an intriguing meld of bookish history and thrilling mystery set in the distant past and embroiling shadowy facets of real life literary giants As in his previous efforts Pearl takes certain liberties with historical fact and for the most part triumphantly sculpts a splendid mystery for us delicately moulding it with the scandals of the eraWhen news of Charles Dickens’s untimely death reaches the office of struggling American publisher Fields Osgood—and trusted clerk Daniel Sand is found murdered on the Boston docks after being dispatched to collect Dickens’s unfinished manuscript—junior publisher James Ripley Osgood embarks on a transatlantic quest to unearth the novel’s ending thereby saving his esteemed business and revealing Daniel’s killer Pearl skillfully captures all the customs and etiquette of the Victorian era all the curios and claptrap adding a young divorcee to the mix Rebecca Sand a competent bookkeeper at Fields Osgood and older sister of the deceased clerk who joins Osgood on his perilous journey Readers find themselves on familiar romantic ground as hero Osgood and heroine Rebecca exchange shy glances whilst squaring off with exotic villains opium addicts hardnosed actors literary sharks and competing members of Dickens’s inner circleVery similar in style atmosphere and pacing to Pearl’s period thriller The Poe Shadow The Last Dickens is as engrossing as it is educational a history lesson finely blended with a succulent mystery Much like The Poe Shadow’s treatment of Poe’s detective character of C Auguste Dupin Pearl employs TMoED to craft a thinly disguised fictionalization of the story of a young man from the neighborhood of Gads Hill Place Dickens's country homeWhile structurally awkward the flashback sequences of Dickens’s backbreaking 1867 American tour embodied my favorite sections of the novel—not just because Dickens himself is featured as a character but rather the superstar author’s treatment at the hands of 1860s American public precisely resonates with contemporary s and the nascency of celebrity worship as evidenced in the manner wherein the feverish crowds on the docks await the arrival of the author’s ship the harried fans outside the theaters and the passionate stalkers harassing Dickens every step of the way It's worth noting that the character of Louisa Parr Barton and the theft of Dickens’s diary are based on actual persons and eventsUnexpectedly one of my favorite aspects of the novel is Pearl’s fascinating portrait of the 19th century publishing industry The Boston based Fields Osgood Dickens' exclusive publisher in the States representing the good guys who find themselves in a precarious position after the writer's death and being pitted against the predatory Harper Brothers of New York Publishing houses fighting to stay afloat and international copyright laws lacking refinement thereby giving rise to literary pirates dubbed bookaneers—Pearl fashions a palpable underbelly of the publishing world that is suspenseful and yet laced in historical truth Alas the novel isn’t without its shortcomings The India subplot surrounding Dickens’s son Frank a supervisor with the Bengal Mounted Police and a keen interest in the opium trade kick starts the novel and while initially promising it ultimately fails to pay off While these chapters grippingly depict the rampant circulation of opium and the British Empire's shamefaced involvement they never really tie back to the main plot and by the end of the novel felt like an afterthought What’s Frank Dickens’s absent relationship with his distinguished father further distances the India storyline from everything elseComparatively The Last Dickens falls short of the high bar set by Dan Simmons’s towering masterpiece Drood which also explored Dickens's incomplete novel from a very dissimilar lens It may be unfair though to equate the two novels both of which were published in 2009 particularly since the historical figures of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins as featured in Simmons’s book are less rooted in historical reality Moreover while both books explore the common theme of opium—and a little bit with the mesmerism—Simmons does so heavily and the result is a phantasmagoric journey into London’s dark underworld with all the makings of a gothic fantasy jam packed with the fruits of its author's laborious researchWhile not a perfect story The Last Dickens is atmospheric and cleverly plotted There’s even an amusing interview between author Pearl and character Osgood in the trade paperback edition If intelligent well researched deftly written mysteries are what you seek then look no further


  10. says:

    August 15 I really didn't like this book at all It was IMO a convoluted mess There were parts that were pointless parts that made no senseand the ending huh? I still am not sure I get the whys and wherefores of the mystery I'm not a mystery reader as a general rule but still it was really confusing as to what exactly the bad guys wanted why they did what they did The entire parts that took place in India were poitless as was most of the storyline wDickens still alive I found most of it painful to read and would not recommend this to anyone CnC review 275