A Tale of Three Continents, Winningly Traversed. The author of "The Poe Shadow" and "The Dante Club" here creates his own Dickens story with a plot that revolves around a real Dickens novel. Pearl is a clever writer with a taste for Escher-like contortions, but he is also a cunning entertainer who knows how to hold and not simply dazzle readers... Rollicking entertainment.

-- Washington Post (Critic's Pick)

Dastardly doings in Victorian England. No one has ever unearthed the end of Charles Dickens’ last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but in this rollicking, exciting, suspenseful, Chinese box of a novel, Matthew Pearl, author of The Poe Shadow (another terrific novel), sends Dickens’ American publisher, James Osgood, to the Dickens estate in England after the wildly popular author died of a stroke on June 9, 1870, at the age of 58. Pearl captures all the mores and manners of the Victorian era, all the bric-a-brac and balderdash, and tosses in a young divorced woman, Rebecca Sand, who works at Osgood’s office and joins him on his quest. Thus begins this layered, twisty yarn, packed to the brim with double-crosses, disguises and duplicity in Bengal, India, where two mounted British policeman are searching for two opium thieves in June 1870... And we’re off and running, finding our way into opium dens and the ghastly opium trade, run by England from India to drug all of China; scurrying into sewers and medical labs; meeting a wild array of deliciously bizarre characters, fugitives from a Dickens novel; and tale upon tale that keep throwing up unexpected surprises, sudden jolts of plot, and dastardly doings that keep you turning the pages as fast as you can... And we’re off and running, finding our way into opium dens and the ghastly opium trade, run by England from India to drug all of China; scurrying into sewers and medical labs; meeting a wild array of deliciously bizarre characters, fugitives from a Dickens novel; and tale upon tale that keep throwing up unexpected surprises, sudden jolts of plot, and dastardly doings that keep you turning the pages as fast as you can.

-- The Providence Journal

Thrillers operate by tapping into a collective anxiety — the dangers of biotechnology, say, or corporate conspiracies or infectious diseases. The anxiety in Matthew Pearl’s new novel, “The Last Dickens,” is literary: what happens when we lose the voices that tell us what happens next? It’s June 1870, and Charles Dickens falls victim to a stroke midway through his serial “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” leaving the story a genuine whodunit. How will readers survive without knowing how it ends? And how will Dickens’s American publisher, the struggling firm of Fields, Osgood & Company, survive without the profits from his book? It’s an appealing premise for anyone who puts store in the power of fiction (which, if you’ve picked up a novel called “The Last Dickens,” you probably do), and even more gratifying for the wonkish reader... resonates with our times.

-- New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)

Pearl’s latest literary historical mystery aligns perfectly with his two previous works, the widely applauded Dante Club and the equally esteemed Poe Shadow; like its predecessors, the novel is a brilliant, exciting thriller exactingly set in past times and involving mysterious aspects of the lives of famous writers. This compelling yarn opens with a—yes, mysterious—scene set in 1870 India, in the wilds, when a mounted policeman invokes the name of Dickens while chasing a robber. Zoom off to Boston on the same day, when a clerk at a publishing house, who was sent to take into his own hands, for his boss, the advance sheets of the next installment of the recently deceased Charles Dickens’ novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is run down by an omnibus on his way back to the office, and the pages go missing. This situation necessitates the publisher’s going to England to attempt to ascertain how Dickens intended to end his novel. Just what do the seemingly disparate parts of the story have to do with one another? What the publisher becomes embroiled in, in London, is far more complicated than simply manuscript detection. A whole world of life-and-death nefariousness awaits both him and the reader, who will be well rewarded.

-- Booklist

An intriguing meld of mystery and literary history centered on Dickens’s last novel... Pearl is already acclaimed as a pro in the quirky field of mysteries grafted onto literary history. “The Dante Club” (2003) imagined that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and James Russell Lowell – at work on a collaborative translation of Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy” from Italian into English – must unravel a series of murders with links to Dante’s Inferno. In “The Poe Shadow” (2006) a young lawyer works to untangle the mystery of Edgar Allen Poe’s death. This time it’s Dickens’s American publisher James R. Osgood (a historical figure) who must solve a mystery. Osgood travels to England after Dickens’s death to see if he can learn something about the ending Dickens had intended for his last work. En route, however, he learns that the story of Dickens’s novel is now entangled with a series of real-life crimes. One of the pleasures of reading Pearl comes from enjoying the intelligently detailed 19th-century settings he constructs. In “The Last Dickens” – which ranges from Boston to London to Bengal, India – he recreates a world in which there were no international copyright laws, Andrew Johnson’s impeachment loomed as a horrific scandal, and decorous steam elevators eased transit in office buildings. He also gives a contemporary feel to his works by reminding us that the 19th century – in which the drug trade, organized crime, and urban blight loomed large – was less genteel than we tend to imagine. (And “The Last Dickens” gives perspective to Harry Potter mania, by recreating the mile-and-a-half long lines of readers who turned out to see Dickens in the United States and the celebrity frenzy that surrounded his every move.) On this period-correct stage, Osgood interacts with a series of historic figures (including Dickens himself) and a number of fictional ones. Osgood must not only solve a mystery but must also save his business and find a way to court a lovely, divorced bookkeeper without either scaring her or breaking the law... a fitting testament to the thrall in which many of us are still held by the world of the great Victorian novelists.

-- Christian Science Monitor

Matthew Pearl's lastest book is a Dickens of a mystery. If the past is indeed a foreign country, Matthew Pearl has your passport. His latest literary thriller, "The Last Dickens", is a magical mystery tour of the mid-19th century that peels back the last years - and final, unfinished work - of the titular titan. Pearl has compiled some history himself through two well-received suspense novels, "The Dante Club" and "The Poe Shadow" (and incorporated a bit of both in "Dickens"). His readers get to fraternize with literature's greats while warily watching for hidden weapons, ravenous rats and the ever-popular opium den. Pearl gives us an older Dickens, besieged by fame as he tours the U.S. in 1867. A loyal entourage tries to shield him from adoring fans (including a delusional stalker), scalpers and literary thieves. Maybe the past is not so different after all: Before the Internet or even universal copyright laws, "bookaneers," we are told, would attend Dickens' dramatic readings and transcribe his abridged works as fodder for unscrupulous publishers, including a particularly bareknuckled Harper & Brothers. The core mystery unfolds just after Dickens' death in 1870, which deprived his vast readership of the second half of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Or did it? Noble Boston publisher James Osgood turns detective and doggedly scours Dickens' estate and London's underbelly for clues to "Drood's" conclusion. His firm's survival may rest on his success, but others have underhand motives to keep "Drood" unfinished. Ivy-educated Pearl is too smart to hinge his plot on mere publishing rights. Like Dickens, he finds compelling stories in every social stratum, viewing the downtrodden with sympathy and the upper crust with a gimlet eye... this entertaining and engrossing adventure leaves us with just one burning question: Is Twain next?

-- New York Daily News

This engaging, energetic graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School makes a nifty specialty of using real-life literary lions as characters in his best-selling mysteries. In "The Dante Club" (2003), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes help solve a series of gruesome crimes in 1865 Boston. In "The Poe Shadow" (2006), a fan of the poet tries to get to the bottom of his mysterious death. And now it is Dickens' turn to appear in a Pearl novel, which is a happy fate because Pearl is not only a wondrously talented writer; he is also a conscientious scholar. Pearl's portraits of authors and their times are convincing and authentic. Thus Dickens' grueling American tour—his second, the first having occurred in 1842—unfolds before the reader's eye with the grainy specificity of a newsreel, assuming they'd had cameras back then. You can easily envision the weary, aging scribe as he steps gingerly down from a carriage, besieged by adoring crowds. You can understand how Dickens saw the upstart country "as if it were one enormous curious eyeball trained on him," as Pearl writes... "The Last Dickens" is about more than just Dickens' American tour. Pearl also explores what happened after Dickens' death, when Dickens' American publisher tries to track down the missing sections—there were rumors Dickens actually finished it—of "Edwin Drood." The novel is steeped in the feel of the 19th Century: cloaks and walking sticks; gas lighting; horses' hooves clattering on cobblestones. Pearl seems to revel in that century, the setting for all of his novels thus far.

-- Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune

Ingenious... a transatlantic caper, in which the New York publisher James Osgood heads east with his book-keeping lady assistant to be pursued and shanghaied through Dickens's haunts and homes by what appear to be some of the latter's own characters.

-- Guardian (UK)

There have been other novels about the frenzy that accompanied the arrival of the latest chapters of Charles Dickens's serialized novels in the United States, but I can't think of one that is as beautifully written and cleverly plotted as The Last Dickens, by Matthew Pearl. Everything any reader could want is here: great complex characters, settings perfectly described and a plot full of twists that Dickens himself couldn't have done better. The Last Dickens is, of course, the master's unfinished gem, the novel titled The Mystery of Edwin Drood. When Dickens died of a stroke, in 1870, he was within a couple of chapters of completion. Just what would have become of Drood has been a test for readers ever since. Several writers have attempted to construct a conclusion, but none seems quite right. That gap has left posterity with plenty of room to speculate, and Pearl, author of The Poe Shadow and The Dante Club, pulls out all the stops. The story begins in India, at an outpost of the Raj. Then, in a trice, it moves to the piers of the Boston waterfront. A dark and sinister man arrives. Another man dies. A businessman, confronted with the dying, grasps a bundle of papers and reads “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” He knows what he has. Those disparate bits all fall into place with the arrival of the police at the office of James Osgood, Dickens's U.S. publisher. Osgood had sent Daniel Sands, his most trusted employee, to the docks to meet the boat that was carrying the copy of Dickens's final instalment. Sands is dead and the police suspect that he was part of a scheme to steal and sell the manuscript. Osgood's business is at stake, and so is his reputation. He embarks, accompanied by Daniel's resolute sister, on a trip to England to salvage everything. Fans of Pearl know that he's a wonder at capturing the feeling of the authors he resurrects in his historical novels. While he was great with Dante and Poe, this is by far his best, and will be fun not just for mystery fans but for devotees of Dickens as well.

-- Globe & Mail

A rousing yarn of opium, book pirating, murder most foul, man-on-man biting and other shenanigans—and that's just for starters. Charles Dickens is dead, and, inexplicably, people are beginning to die because of that fact—not because they've got no reason to live absent new tales from a beloved author, but because said author's last work-in-progress contains evidence of real-life mayhem that its perpetrators, it would seem, do not wish to see publicized. So runs the premise that Pearl (The Poe Shadow, 2006, etc.), who specializes in literary mysteries, offers. The story unfolds on the docks of Boston, to which an office boy has run to retrieve the next installment of Dickens's Mystery of Edwin Drood, fresh off the boat from London. Said boy expires, unpleasantly, while a stranger of most peculiar manner is seen skulking in the vicinity, conspicuous by his "decidedly English accent" and "brown-parchment complexion," suggestive of India and imperial milieus beyond. Dickens's American publisher—better put, the only publisher in America who is paying the author royalties rather than stealing his work—sets out to solve the crime and retrieve the manuscript, with the clerk's resourceful sister on hand to help on a journey across oceans and continents. Meanwhile, our stranger is up to more nasty business, slashing throats, sawing bones and giving people the willies. It's clear that Pearl is having a fine time of it all, firing off a few inside jokes at the publishing business along the way: No matter that Dickens is dead with only six chapters done, says his London editor a trifle ungrammatically, for "Every reader who picks up the book, finding it unfinished, can spend their time guessing what the ending should be. And they'll tell their friends to buy a copy and do the same, so it can be argued." A pleasing whodunit that resolves nicely... an imaginative exercise in what might be called alternative literary history.

-- Kirkus Reviews

Tale of Dickens' mysterious unfinished book a ripping read. [An] intricate and carefully nuanced novel about the great man: Matthew Pearl's "The Last Dickens." Pearl is a young writer who specializes in historical literary fiction. (Previous novels include "The Dante Club" and "The Poe Shadow.") His work wears its deep research lightly, combining real-life figures and bookish references with robust prose and storytelling... Pearl remains notably sure-footed as he lays out his complex tale. Of course, the book's conclusion can't be revealed here — though it's safe to say that Pearl has constructed an ingenious ending to the enduring mystery of the last Dickens.

-- Seattle Times

Mathew Pearl has made a career of writing fascinating historical mysteries where real people, usually writers and poets, exist alongside his creations to bring the literary intelligentsia to life. In "The Last Dickens," he takes on one of literary history's most enduring unsolved mysteries, the ending to Charles Dickens final novel, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Dickens died in 1870 after completing the first six installments, leaving readers with only conjecture for its solution. Also set in six installments, Pearl's novel posits an intriguing theory for the ending and how Dickens may have arrived at it. Pearl's plot is ambitious and satisfying, involving a murder and a missing manuscript, the opium trade, the emerging publishing business in New York and Boston, and the predicament of single, divorced women in America in the 19th century. Fans of Dickens will appreciate Pearl's literary allusions and his thoroughly researched characterizations that make this novel a loving pastiche to the "Boz."

-- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Extremely clever... well-executed and tightly controlled.

-- Los Angeles Times

A cross-country thriller in which a Boston publisher with the Dickensian moniker of Osgood travels to England to uncover the mystery of the unfinished manuscript shortly after Dickens' death. (His secretary accompanies him on the trip, which everyone sees as scandalous.) Pearl introduces a subplot that flashes back to Dickens' second reading tour of America, one marred by anti-British sentiment and — in Pearl's version — a female stalker. And there is another subplot involving one of Dickens' sons in India who attempts to foil opium traders. Pearl pulls it off — the whole thing culminates in a fiery confrontation and ends with just the right touch of Dickensian sweetness.

-- Drew Taylor, Fairfield Weekly

A Dickens of a Mystery. Matthew Pearl picks up where Dickens left off in "The Last Dickens." IS EDWIN DROOD dead or alive? Was he killed by his uncle, John Jasper? Or did he somehow escape that fate, possibly to return later? It's a question that has intrigued readers ever since that June afternoon in 1870 when Charles Dickens dropped dead of a stroke, halfway through writing "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." In "The Last Dickens" by Matthew Pearl, it's also a question that has the frantic attention of Dickens' American publishers when they learn of the author's death. The story was to be published in 12 monthly installments, then as a complete book. But the firm of Fields, Osgood & Co. has received only six installments, apparently all that Dickens wrote before his death. Without some idea of how the book was to end, the firm faces financial ruin. The intrepid James Osgood hies himself off to England with the firm's female bookkeeper in tow, seeking clues to Dickens' intentions. There's a mysterious villain pursuing them, a madman who says his name is Dick Datchery--a character in the unfinished novel--and their innkeeper's tale of his young son, an opium addict who disappeared after going to live with his uncle. And throughout there's the pervasive smoke of the opium trade. Pearl has created a suspenseful tale, successfully evoking the period. It's obvious that he's done a lot of research, but that never slows the story down.

-- Virginia Free-Lance Star

[A] gripping read... Having tackled Dante and Edgar Allen Poe, Matthew Pearl turns his attention to Charles Dickens in the latest of his well-researched literary detective stories. Capitalising on the on-going speculation about the possible ending of the Dickens’s unfinished work, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, Pearl’s novel plunges headlong into an inter-linked tale of opium smuggling in India in the time of the Raj and literary piracy and rivalry in 1860s Boston and London. American publisher James R Osgood is eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Dickens’ novel, only to be informed of the author’s death. The demise of Osgood’s clerk in strange circumstances and the consequent disappearance of the next chapters of Edwin Drood, makes Osgood determined to steal a march on rival publishers and set sail to England to discover more about Dickens’ manuscript. Meanwhile, in India, Dickens’ son Frank is investigating the theft of a valuable drugs-haul that seems to have a connection with the sinister figure of Herman whom Osgood encounters onboard ship. A plot packed full of incident, coincidences, devious twists and dramatic set pieces ensures excitement.

-- (London) Daily Mail

The latest novel again builds on bookish figures. Shortly after Dickens unexpectedly dies in 1870, leaving “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” unfinished, a partner of his U.S. publisher travels to England to determine whether the final six of the planned 12 chapters might be found. The narrative regularly turns back to the 1867 U.S. tour, demonstrating the writer’s rock-star popularity. Opium dens, stalkers, ticket- buyer riots and a nasty Parsee named Herman feature in a well- plotted, smartly paced tale with more than a few neat twists.

-- Bloomberg News

Matthew Pearl, the internationally bestselling author of THE DANTE CLUB and THE POE SHADOW, brings Charles Dickens to life as wholly as Dickens brought Tiny Tim to life. Fans of the famous writer will rejoice in the wealth of life details and trivia along with the incredible period detail. THE LAST DICKENS is truly a history lesson going hand in hand with a juicy mystery, as entertaining as it is educational. You can’t help but come away with the highly satisfying feeling that you rubbed shoulders with literary giants.

-- Bookreporter

Pearl's third historical novel (after The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow ) explores the circumstances surrounding Charles Dickens's unfinished last work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood . Boston publisher James Osgood eagerly awaits the final installments of Drood after hearing of Dickens's sudden death. Unfortunately, Osgood's trusted messenger, Daniel, is killed before he can deliver the manuscript to the publishing house, and the manuscript disappears. Could Osgood's publishing rivals have stolen it, or is there an even deeper mystery going on? Accompanied by Daniel's sister, Osgood travels to England to search for clues about how Dickens planned on finishing Drood , unaware his enemies are close at hand. Pearl enriches his story through extended flashbacks, the inclusion of actual historical figures, including Osgood himself, and an in-depth knowledge of Dickens's career and literary works. Strongly recommended.

-- Library Journal

In this literary thriller, an American publisher suspects foul play when the latest instalment of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood fails to arrive and he’s forced to enter Dickens’s East End world to find out the truth. If that isn’t homage to one of the greatest writers the English language has ever known, then what is?

-- The National (UAE)

Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens is a tour-de-force. India in the time of the Raj, the opium dens of London, literary piracy in 1860s Boston, and Charles Dickens himself - all come alive in this ingenious, engrossing mystery, which grips the reader from harrowing start to tantalizing finish.

-- Jed Rubenfeld, author of The Interpretation of Murder






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