Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Charles Dickens (1812 -1870)

Penguin Classics has some explaining to do. Charles Dickens is one of our greatest writers and he deservedly has many novels on Penguin's list, but Edwin Drood does not deserve to be among them. Not only does the book, which should be an exciting mystery, get bogged down in boring characters, but it's only half finished. Meant to appear in a twelve part serial, Dickens only finished six before he died. I understand that an unfinished classic provides a fun mental mystery for hardcore Dickens fans, but it doesn't warrant a stop in the Greatest Ever list. 
The novel starts interestingly enough, in a London opium den complete with the dark, creepy atmosphere that one would expect. It's here that we meet John Jasper, a resident of Cloiserham who teaches music and sings in the choir. He's got a nephew named Edwin Drood who is has an arranged engagement to Rosa Bud. Jasper loves Rosa and Edwin doesn't really love Rosa, herein lies the problem. Two characters come to town, twins, Neville and Helena Landless. Neville falls for Rosa and has a fight with the flip Edwin when Drood seems not to care that he's engaged. Rosa and Edwin then decide to break off their engagement but they don't tell everyone about it. All of the sudden Edwin goes missing. Suspicion falls upon Neville and that's pretty much the end of the action. 
The remaining mysteries are: what happened to Edwin Drood? I got the feeling that he wasn't murdered and that he simply took off somewhere because he seemed like the kind of guy who would do that. Most everyone else seems to think he was bumped off, however, most likely by Jasper, his own uncle. Other suspects are Neville, Rosa, and Helena. The other mystery involves Dick Datchery, a minor character introduced at the end of the final installment. Dick is spying on Jasper and seems to be disguised. Could this be Helena, Princess Puffer, Grewgious, Bazzard, or even Edwin? Like a stupid multiple choice test, there simply isn't enough information given to determine the outcome.
It's fun to speculate though, so I will say that Dick is Helena trying to clear her brother. Rosa and Neville hook up and when Jasper challenges Neville to a duel Edwin reappears in the nick of time to vanquish his uncle and marry Helena. The End.

Rating 3/10: It's only half finished, how can this be a classic? I know the Gil Stuart painting of George Washington is half done and everyone loves it, but seriously including Edwin Drood among the greatest things ever written is like giving the guy leading the marathon at the 13 mile mark the gold medal. 

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