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 Shadow.Boston, 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 killer.Danger 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.From the Hardcover edition.
Bestseller Pearl (The Poe Shadow) delivers a period thriller that has the misfortune to fall short of the high standard set by Dan Simmons's Drood(Reviews, Nov. 24), which also centers on Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. After the author dies in 1870, a series of suspicious deaths leads Dickens's U.S. publisher, James Osgood, to suspect they may be connected with the solution to the novel's puzzle. Accompanied by attractive bookkeeper Rebecca Sand, the sister of one of the victims, Osgood travels from Boston to England to seek clues to Drood's missing conclusion. The action shifts to India, where Charles's son Francis is a superintendent of the Bengal Mounted Police, and back in time, to the novelist's last American tour in 1867. 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. (Mar.)
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1 . Awkward prose indeed
Posted September 07, 2009 by Passer domesticus , MontrealTo echo the editorial review and to say that this book suffers from some awkward prose is to underestimate the true awfulness of the reading experience. The infamous "It was a dark and stormy night" was better written than this wooden and unreadable travesty. The author has a good idea for a plot but oh, how he needs to take some lessons in style. Simply could not struggle beyond the first 100 pages. Do not buy - waste of money.
March 15, 2009
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Excerpt from The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
Chapter 1 ... Bengal, India, June 1870 Neither of the young mounted policemen fancied these subdivisions of the Bagirhaut province. Neither of them fancied jungles where all manner of things could happen unprovoked, unseen, as they had a few years before when a poor lieutenant was stripped, clubbed, and drowned in the river for trying to collect licensing taxes. The officers clamped the heels of their boots tighter into their horses’ flanks. Not to say they were scared—only careful. “You must be careful always,” said Turner to Mason as they ducked the low branches and vines. “Be assured, the natives in India do not value life. Not even as the poorest Englishman does.” The younger of the two policemen, Mason, nodded thoughtfully at the words of his impressive partner, who was nearly twenty-five years old, who had two brothers also come from England to be in Indian Civil Service, and who had fought the Indian rebellion a few years before. He was an expert if ever one was. “Perhaps we should have come with more men, sir.” “Well, that’s pretty! More men, Mason? We shan’t need any more than our two heads between us to take in a few ragged dacoits. Remember, a high-mettled horse stands not for hedge nor ditch.” When Mason had arrived in Bengal from Liverpool for his new post, he accepted Turner’s offer to “chum,” pooling incomes and living expenses and passing their free time in billiards or croquet. Mason, at eighteen, was thankful for counsel from such an experienced man in the ranks of the Bengal police. Turner could list places a policeman ought never to ride alone because of the Coles, the Santhals, the Assamee, the Kookies, and the hill tribes in the frontiers. Some of the criminal gangs among the tribes were dacoits, thieves; others, warned Turner, carried axes and wanted English heads. “The natives of India value life only as far as they can kill when doing so,” was another Turner proverb. Fortunately, they were not hunting out that sort of bloodthirsty gang in these wasting temperatures this morning. Instead they were investigating a plain, brazen robbery. The day before, a long train of twenty or thirty bullock carts had been hit with a shower of stones and rocks. In the chaos, dacoits holding torches tipped over the carts and fled with valuable chests from the convoy. When intelligence of the theft reached the police station, Turner had gone to their supervisor’s desk to volunteer himself and Mason, and their commander had sent them to question a known receiver of stolen goods. Now, as the terrain thinned, they neared the small thatched house on the creek. A dwindling column of smoke hovered above the mud chimney. Mason gripped the sword at his belt. Every two men in the Bengal police were assigned one sword and one light carbine rifle, and Turner had naturally claimed the rifle. “Mason,” he said with a slight smile in his voice after noticing the anxious look on his partner’s face. “You are green, aren’t you? It is highly likely they have unloaded the goods and fled already. Perhaps for the mountains, where our elaka—that is like ‘jurisdiction,’ Mason—where our elaka does not extend. No matter, really, when captured, they lie and say they are innocent peasants until the corrupt darkie magistrates release them. What do you say to going tiger shooting upon some elephants?” “Turner!” Mason whispered, just then, interrupting his partner. They were coming upon the thatched-roof house where a bright red horse was tied to a post (the natives in these provinces often painted their horses unnatural colors). A slight rustle at the house drew their