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on 13 March 2017
I knew this novel was due to finish in the middle (who doesn't?) , but I just wanted it to go on and on for ever. My favourite author of all time.
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on 9 March 2017
Just as it was reaching an interesting part, it ended. Wish they had said that it was incomplete. (Not Dickens' fault, poor chap does before he completed it).
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on 10 October 2015
Would have been much better if he'd been able to finish it - but still worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2003
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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on 12 July 2014
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on 10 November 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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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2010
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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VINE VOICEon 31 October 2011
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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on 1 October 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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on 27 December 2016
I don't know that I am worthy of reviewing Dickens, but I am a Dickens lover, and I adored this book - but was totally disappointed by the ending. It seemed unfinished. After that, I couldn't read my way through the short stories, so have plonked it in my charity shop bag. I'm just glad that I have read so much other Dickens work, as this one book cannot sway me negatively.
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