Click here to read reviewer Michael Leaonrd's take on The Last Dickens.
Charles Dickens is dead. His American publisher, James Osgood, is desperate to get the final installments of Dickens’ book The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which has just arrived in Boston from England. He sends his seventeen-year-old clerk, Daniel Sand, to collect the manuscript, but Daniel never returns. He dies in a mysterious accident, and the manuscript disappears. James searches for the missing manuscript with Rebecca, Daniel’s divorced sister, on a journey that takes them across the ocean and into the depths of depravity in Victorian England.
Although Dickens wrote his novels in monthly serialized installments, Osgood is convinced that the author actually completed his final novel. Traveling all the way to England to find the missing manuscript, he finds Dickens’ grieving family but no manuscript. His continuing quest takes him through the back alleys of London where he encounters despair, violence and drug addiction. Will Osgood solve one of the most notorious literary mysteries of all time?
During the course of The Last Dickens, readers learn a great deal about the publishing world in the late 19th century. James Osgood works in a Boston publishing house locked in fierce competition with publishers in New York. When one of the famous Harper brothers pays Osgood a visit, he warns that the days of publishing esoteric literary works are numbered: “You must produce quantity going ahead, Mr. Osgood.” (p. 29) The lack of copyright agreement between the United States and England at the time allowed unscrupulous companies to publish without the permission of the writers.
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel is its portrait of Charles Dickens. In the winter of 1867-68, Dickens traveled throughout the U.S. on a five-month reading tour. At this time, writers such as Dickens were very nearly worshipped by their followers - writers were the rock stars of their time. Also fascinating: learning about Charles Dickens the man – his writing process, his home at Gadshill, his complicated family life, and his difficult relationships with his children.
Matthew Pearl graduated in English and American Literature from Harvard University then went on to graduate from Yale Law School in 2000. Since then, he has taught literature, creative writing and law at Harvard and Emerson College. His first two novels The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, showcased his skills as a writer of literary thrillers” His unique style combines mystery, literature and historical fiction, here turning his attention to the period after the death of one of the most famous authors of all time.