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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dickens's unfinished novel continues to intrigue.
Set in Cloisterham, a cathedral town, Dickens's final novel, unfinished, introduces two elements unusual for Dickens--opium-eating and the church. In the opening scene, John Jasper, music teacher and soloist in the cathedral choir, awakens from an opium trance in a flat with two other semi-conscious men and their supplier, an old woman named Puffer, and then hurries off...
Published on 7 Jan 2006 by Mary Whipple

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for what it is.
If Charles Dickens had been able to complete this book, then I don't honestly think it would have been one of his better works, but going by what there is, I think it still would have been a good solid read.

The tale is mainly set in Cloisterham (fictional, but based on the very real Rochester), but with some goodly sections set in London.

In...
Published 12 months ago by Mr. J. M. Haines


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dickens's unfinished novel continues to intrigue., 7 Jan 2006
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Set in Cloisterham, a cathedral town, Dickens's final novel, unfinished, introduces two elements unusual for Dickens--opium-eating and the church. In the opening scene, John Jasper, music teacher and soloist in the cathedral choir, awakens from an opium trance in a flat with two other semi-conscious men and their supplier, an old woman named Puffer, and then hurries off to daily vespers.
Jasper, aged twenty-six, is the uncle and guardian of Edwin Drood, only a few years younger. Drood has been the fiancé of Rosa Bud for most of his life, an arrangement made by his and Rosa's deceased fathers to honor their friendship, and the wedding is expected within the year. Jasper, Rosa's music teacher, is secretly in love with her, though she finds him repellent.
When two orphans, Helena and Neville Landless, arrive in Cloisterham, Helena and Rosa become friends, and Neville finds himself strongly attracted to the lovely Rosa. Ultimately, the hot-tempered Neville and Drood have a terrible argument in which Neville threatens Drood before leaving town on a walking trip. Drood vanishes the same day. Apprehended on his trip, Neville is questioned about Drood's disappearance, and Jasper accuses him of murder.
Tightly organized to this point, the novel shows Jasper himself to be a prime suspect, someone who could have engineered the evidence against Neville, but Dickens unexpectedly introduces some new characters at this point--the mysterious Dick Datchery and Tartar, an old friend of Rev. Mr. Crisparkle, minor canon at the cathedral. Puffer, the opium woman, is reintroduced and appears set to play a greater role, since she solicits information from the semi-conscious Jasper and secretly follows him. This is the halfway point in the projected novel, and Dickens clearly planned to develop these new (or reintroduced) characters to deepen the mystery.
More modern in many ways than his previous novels, the characters here are not simple stereotypes--some are good people who have real flaws and make mistakes. Dickens's tying of Jasper to the church choir, where he was a soloist, suggests some examination of the theme of hypocrisy, in which the good Mr. Crisparkle would be Jasper's antithesis. The opium scenes, vividly drawn, carry the unusual suggestion that opium leads to a kind of intoxication similar to that of alcohol, and Dicken does not use these scenes to offer dire warnings about the drug--at least at this point. Especially intriguing because it is unfinished, this novel continues to fascinate mystery lovers and literary scholars more than a century after its first publication. Mary Whipple
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what might have been., 15 Nov 2003
By 
S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com" - See all my reviews
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It's impossible to forget when reading this that it is only half the size of what it should have been. Dickens died almost exactly halfway through finishing it, and it is easy to see that if he had lived it would have ranked as one of his truly great novels. There is also no denying that Dickens comes across as somewhat jaundiced with human nature in the closing months of his life. He has very little to say that is positive about the cathedral city of Cloisterham, and his anger at the hypocrisy and double-standards of the life there practically leaps off the page at you. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his creation of John Jasper, one of his darkest characters. Jasper is the leading memeber of the Cloisterham choir, but in his spare time he is an opium-addict who haunts the sleaziest dens in the pursuit of his fix. Not only that but he terrifies young Rosa Budd with his designs on her, and plots to do away with his nephew, the Edwin Drood of the title, in the most dastardly and cunning way .... or does he? The fact that "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" is unfinished leaves that question hanging resolutely in mid-air. We come away from the book none the wiser not only as to whether Edwin has been murdered by his wicked uncle, but even whether he really is alive or dead. It is the mystery of literature that has tantalised readers ever since Dickens wrote it in 1870. There are many reasons to bemoan the fact that the book was never finished, not only the obvious chief one that Dickens died, but that the book clearly had the makings of a first-rate murder mystery. Take for example the scene where Edwin goes to get his watch fixed at the jewellers, this was clearly meant to be important evidence at a later date, as is Jasper so clearly making a big issue out of his fake diary entries, but of course, it was never to be. Plus also we are introduced to a whole host of memorable characters (Billickins the landlady was a role made for Irene Handl!) who never got the chance to breathe as much as they should. None of this should stop you enjoying the book. Raymond Chandler is quoted in the Introduction as saying that the measure of a good mystery is that you want to read it even knowing that the end is missing. You really can't put it any better than that.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sinister and curious (and good), 10 Nov 2011
I bought a secondhand copy of this book - that dated from 1896 - from an old bookshop in Northumberland. As usual with Dickens, I was soon hooked. What really stood out was the character of John Jasper, with his opium den habit, his choir singing, and his stalking ways... he is hopelessly in love with Rosa Bud, who has an arrangement to be married to Edwin Drood, a decent sort of chap. While Jasper is Rosa's music teacher, she feels his leer and is frightened. They are living in a provincial town, said to be based on Rochester, and most local matters are observed by others. But not all... which is the genius of this unfinished novel, Dickens died before it was completed in 1870 -- giving the story all the more mystery, as you don't obviously find out the ending. Helena and Neville Landless, with foreign-coloured skin, arrive in Cloisterham; youngsters to be looked after by Mr Crisparkle and the Nuns' House, where Rosa, who has a biggish inheritance coming her way, lives. They provide a spark, as Neville has an eye for Rosa, provoking outward annoyance in Edwin (and inward consternation in John Jasper), that leads to the 'mystery'. Somehow or other, Edwin disappears one night. Neville, known to be argumentative and hot-blooded, is 'captured' and considered the prime suspect, on the encouragement of Jasper... but obviously that would be too pat. Meanwhile Jasper declares his love to Rosa, spooking her so much that she rushes off to London, where the man in charge of her inheritance, the hilariously weird Mr Grewgious, sorts out an abode. And the book ends as Jasper returns to his favourite opium den run by "'Er Royal Highness the Princess Puffer" (which gives you an insight into the wit of the book). This meeting results in Jasper being found out by one sharp-eyed fellow, in Cloisterham... but how much will ever really be revealed in the respectable choir-singing provincial place? Drugs (the scenes in the opium dens are vividly carried), infatuation, paper-thin respectability, murder (possibly)... it's an intoxicating mix. And it's also proof that Dickens died when he was at the top of his game.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unfinished but an undoubtedly great novel!, 1 Oct 2001
Can you imagine Charles Dickens in the part of the detective-story writer? No? Read this book! It is splendid and reveals new sides of the author talent. I consider Dickens to be one of the world's greatest writers and I enjoy reading all his works. Dickens always uses mysterious and strange situations in his novels. We wonder who is the secret benefactor of Pip in Great Expectations; there are a number of detective elements in Our Mutual Friend, etc. Nevertheless The Mystery of Edwin Drood is peculiar. There are not so many characters and only one entangled line of story. Dickens creates a wonderful portrait of the murderer - obsessed with one dark passion to an innocent girl, jealous, crazed from opium, artful and inventive choirmaster John Jasper. Jasper commits an almost "ideal" murder. As the novel is unfinished we are free to imagine all the rest. By which means the murderer can be captured, who is the mysterious stranger Dick Datchary, what is the role of the old woman from the opium den, what destiny expects all the heroes? Dickens is true to himself in creating images of good, noble, strong and charming women and honest, worthy men. I can't do otherwise but admire positive characters of Dickens novels. Though the scenery is rather dark and unjoyful, we find some funny parts full of the author's brilliant humor. In a word, the book is an excellent reading for everyone who appreciates classical English literature.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tantalising but no less entertaining, 31 Oct 2011
By 
G. M. Sinstadt - See all my reviews
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The plot is recounted at length here and in Wikipedia at even greater length, so let us take that as read. The mystery truly has no solution though there may be a variety of plausible beliefs. Personally, I am happy to remain in ignorance. The disappointment is less in not knowing the outcome as in the loss of what has all the makings of a novel to stand with the best of Dickens.

Setting aside the main protagonists, there is great joy to be had from a rich gallery of characters in supporting roles. Miss Twinkleton, boarding school mistress, is established early: "Miss Twinkleton here achieved a curtsey, suggestive of marvels happening to her respected legs, and which she came out of nobly, three yards behind her starting-point." Later, in London, the verbal war between Miss Twinkleton and the formidable Mrs Billikins (of no known forename) is the author at his comic best. Mr Grewgious, the lawyer, and Bazzard, his mutinous clerk and aspiring playwright; Thomas Sapsea the pompous auctioneer; Durdles, the alcoholic stonemason; Septimus Crisparkle, the gentle, kindly minor canon; all linger long in the memory.

Dick Datchery is an enigma, possibly destined to be a major player in unravelling the mystery. He enters late in the tale we have but this, alas, is known to be only the half of it. Others have tried to patch on an ending, but it is best left as it is - as no small achievement for a master story-teller.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Enigma, 24 Jan 2010
By 
Gregory S. Buzwell "bagpuss007" (London) - See all my reviews
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The Mystery of Edwin Drood is probably the most famous unfinished novel in the English language. Dickens's death almost exactly half-way through the writing of the book leaves the disappearance, and probable murder, of Edwin Drood unexplained. It also means we never discover what happens to the lovely Rosa Bud; the fiery Neville Landless; the superficially bumbling Mr Grewgious (who is a whole lot sharper than he seems); the refreshingly blunt stonemason Durdles and the probable villain of the piece John Jasper - choirmaster by day and opium addict by night. The charcters all hang in suspended animation, their fates forever undecided, and it's very much to our loss that Dickens didn't live to untangle their respective destinies.

Drood is similar in many respects to much of Dickens's earlier fiction. The tale was clearly intended to be on a smaller scale than many of the late great novels that immediately preceeded it (Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend) and it was tightly focused around the stories of a very few characters, rather than a cast of hundreds. With Drood Dickens was, I think, attempting to show how a murderer, or someone who believes himself to be a murderer, will ultimately always give himself away no matter how clever he believes he has been. Dickens is not, for once, looking outwards to the ills and injustices of society, but is rather gazing inwards at an individual and the workings of the human mind under extreme conditions. It was a rather bold step for a writer known for his broad canvases to suddenly reduce his cast of actors to a mere handful and it shows that Dickens was trying new ideas right up until the very end.

Like everyone who has been haunted by the novel I wish the great man had lived to finish it. What we are left with is a beautiful, sometimes sinister but always fascinating enigma. Drood contains some of Dickens's most dazzling descriptive writing: Cloisterham hushed on Christmas Eve, for example, or the stunning scene in which Jasper reveals his passionate, obsessive love for Rosa, who sits in terrified imobility trembling at his every word. It may be possible to argue that some of Dickens's sheer energy had been dimmed by age, but his great descriptive gifts were with him right up to the very end.

In spite of its unfinished state Drood is well worth reading. It's somehow like a ghost story in which the ghost is always just off-stage, and its open-endedness leaves any number of alternative events equally possible and equally unknowable. It's the most beautifully enigmatic 'ending' a mystery novel could possibly have.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating, 14 Jan 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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After recently watching the new tv adaptation on the BBC I decided it was time I re-read the novel. I have read this many times before, but it has been a few years since I last read it. I was glad to see that I was able to find a copy for the kindle here, rather than have to search through my bookshelves for a copy. To me this is the most frustrating of books. There are many well known unfinished works in literature, but this one is so dumbfounding because we don't actually know if Edwin Drood has been killed, or has just disappeared. We know that this would have been Dickens' closest foray into the world of the Sensation Novel, and we also know that he was having trouble writing this, as he didn't want to give too much away and thus detract from the concluding installment.

I think everyone must be aware of the main plot. The novel is set between London and Cloisterham. Edwin Drood, the character of the title mysteriously disappears and at first Neville Landless is accused. There is the opium taking character, John Jasper, who is Edwin's uncle, and who has an obsessive love for Edwin's original future wife, Rosa. We can work out to a degree who is likely to marry whom in this tale, but as Dickens died halfway through writing it we are left with some conundrums. It seems obvious, that 'Princess Puffer' the woman of the opium den will blackmail Jasper. There is also the problem of what Mr Datchery is doing at Cloisterham, and if that is his real name.

Of course, with Dickens you have a great collection of characters here, and as always, some comedy is added. One of my particular favourite characters is the London landlady, Mrs Billickin. If you have never read this before, then now is as good a time as any, and like many before you you will have the chance to try and work out yourself what ultimately happens in this most perplexing of mysteries.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I have been taking opium for a pain, an agony that sometimes overcomes me.", 9 Jan 2008
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Set in Cloisterham, a cathedral town, Dickens's final novel, unfinished, introduces two elements unusual for Dickens--opium-eating and the church. In the opening scene, John Jasper, music teacher and soloist in the cathedral choir, awakens from an opium trance in a flat with two other semi-conscious men and their supplier, an old woman named Puffer, and then hurries off to daily vespers.

Jasper, aged twenty-six, is the uncle and guardian of Edwin Drood, only a few years younger. Drood has been the fiancé of Rosa Bud for most of his life, an arrangement made by his and Rosa's deceased fathers to honor their friendship, and the wedding is expected within the year. Jasper, Rosa's music teacher, is secretly in love with her, though she finds him repellent.

When two orphans, Helena and Neville Landless, arrive in Cloisterham, Helena and Rosa become friends, and Neville finds himself strongly attracted to the lovely Rosa. Ultimately, the hot-tempered Neville and Drood have a terrible argument in which Neville threatens Drood before leaving town on a walking trip. Drood vanishes the same day. Apprehended on his trip, Neville is questioned about Drood's disappearance, and Jasper accuses him of murder.

Tightly organized to this point, the novel shows Jasper himself to be a prime suspect, someone who could have engineered the evidence against Neville, but Dickens unexpectedly introduces some new characters at this point--the mysterious Dick Datchery and Tartar, an old friend of Rev. Mr. Crisparkle, minor canon at the cathedral. Puffer, the opium woman, is reintroduced and appears set to play a greater role, since she solicits information from the semi-conscious Jasper and secretly follows him. This is the halfway point in the projected novel, and Dickens clearly planned to develop these new (or reintroduced) characters to deepen the mystery.

More modern in many ways than his previous novels, the characters here are not simple stereotypes--some are good people who have real flaws and make mistakes. Dickens's tying of Jasper to the church choir, where he was a soloist, suggests some examination of the theme of hypocrisy, in which the good Mr. Crisparkle would be Jasper's antithesis. The opium scenes, vividly drawn, carry the unusual suggestion that opium leads to a kind of intoxication similar to that of alcohol, and Dicken does not use these scenes to offer dire warnings about the drug--at least at this point. Especially intriguing because it is unfinished, this novel continues to fascinate mystery lovers and literary scholars more than a century after its first publication. Mary Whipple
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unfinished novel and other miscellany, 13 April 2005
By 
Dr. A. Large - See all my reviews
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The Mystery of Edwin Drood is exactly half a novel, the first six of twelve planned instalments, Dickens dying before the second six were completed. It shares with Dickens's final completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, a plot based around a marriage arranged in the wills of dead parents; one of the couple goes missing, the eponymous Drood, and is presumed dead. His young opium-addicted uncle, seemingly obsessed with Drood's fiancée, Rosa Budd, appears to be the prime suspect.
Edwin Drood was going to be a much shorter and leaner novel than its predecessor, with no subplots and fewer characters. The writing, too, is a little sparer than in earlier Dickens. However, the predilection for comic character names is continued - the best example being the bombastic philanthropist Mr. Honeythunder, who does indeed appear to shout and bully much of the time.
Is this half a novel, a mystery which is never resolved, worth reading? Yes, because it is entertaining throughout and shows that Dickens still had the potential to develop further as a writer. Much like Schubert's eighth unfinished Symphony, it is all the more enigmatic as an incomplete masterwork. Moreover, it exercises the imagination as the reader has to complete the story him- or herself, a quite deliberate literary device sometimes encountered in modern novels.
Also in this bargain edition is Master Humphrey's Clock, originally written to introduce The Old Curiousty Shop and Barnaby Rudge. Indeed, the mysterious narrator at the beginning of the former novel is none other than Master Humphrey telling the story to his group of friends, a club of elderly gentlemen meet to tell each other stories; and here later, Mr Pickwick joins this group, allowing Dickens to also involve the Wellers from The Pickwick Papers.
Two short stories, Hunted Down and George Silverman's Explanation, from 1859 and 1868 respectively, are included. The former is somewhat reminiscent of Wilkie Collins (a close friend of Dickens), the latter is an unusual portrait of misplaced guilt and humility. Finally, A Holiday Romance is four short interconnected fables written from the point of view of four children, friends relating their adventures. These three short pieces show the diversity and flexibility of Dickens's writing, and are so unlike most of his novels in style.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic story - No Rupert Friend adaptation though, 24 July 2014
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One of the greatest mysteries ever written simply because the Mystery of Edwin Drood shall forever remain a mystery due to Dickens passing before the solution could ever be penned.

This novel proves Dickens, despite all the masterpieces he had already written, was certainly capable of writing another, and although this is only a partial story it is still worth the read as it is an original (especially at the time of its writing) and intriguing piece which lets your imagination run wild, allowing you to step into Dickens' shoes, or perhaps even Sherlock Holmes', and solve the mystery yourself!

I love this story. It is dark and disturbing and shows how a man's desire of a woman may drive him completely mad...just how mad is the reader's surmise.

Of course the greatest mystery remains why they decided to take a photo of Rupert Friend from the film Young Victoria and use it as the front cover for the book? I guess because he is in Victorian attire...still, it is rather disappointing as it leads you to believe there is an adaptation of this novel starring this wonderful actor which unfortunately there isn't.

However this is a marvellous edition especially as it also contains some of Dickens' most famous short stories.
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