Mystery of Edwin Drood
Title: Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Dickens’ marvelous tale of murder was left unfinished at his death in 1870. The novel has been all the more tantalizing for its lack of an ending to a mystifying puzzle that avid readers, over the years, have tried to solve.
Dicken’s last, unfinished novel published in 1870, Edwin Drood is a murder mystery with an atmosphere all of its own. The novelist’s unique descriptive powers are brought to bear on a drama which foreshadows the detective stories of Conan Doyle on the one hand and the nightmarish novels of Kafka on the other. Set, like so many nineteenth-century English novels, in an apparently innocuous provincial city, the story rapidy darkens when the atmosphere thickens with a sense of impending evil. As in all Dickens’s greatest books, it is the gulf between appearance and reality which drives the action. In public a man of unimpeachable integrity, the benevolent John Jasper leads the Cloisterham cathedral choir. In private he is an addict who frequents the sleaziest opium dens. Apparently smiling on the engagement of his nephew, the Edwin Drood of the title, he is so consumed by jealousy that he terrifies the boy’s fiancee Rosa Budd, and plots to murder him. Despite being one of the author’s darkest books, Edwin Drood is filled with the bustle of memorable minor characters who populate all his stories: Billikins, the landlady; the foolish Mr Sapsea; the domineering philanthropist, Mr Honeythunder; and the mysterious Datchery. Several attempts have been made to complete the book and solve the puzzle, but even in its unfinished state it remains a gripping and troubling masterpiece.