Title: The Last Dickens
Author: Matthew Pearl
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Paul Michael
First line: Neither of the young mounted policemen fancied these subdivisions of the Bagirhaut province.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
I really wanted to love this book. I love literary mysteries, and I was intrigued by the idea of a publisher seeking for Dickens’ unfinished final manuscript. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a book I fell in love with; it was only a case of “like.” And not even “like like.”
The biggest reason that The Last Dickens falls apart is the multiple storylines. I thoroughly enjoyed two of the stories: Osgood and Rebecca searching for the story behind Edmund Drood, and the story of Dickens’ last American tour. But there was another storyline that followed one of Dickens’ sons in India that I found boring. I kept waiting for it to have a connection to the rest of the book, but it didn’t tie in enough to make it worth it.
I am glad I read The Last Dickens, though, if only for the insights into what publishing was like in the US in the 19th century.
Audio notes: Paul Michael isn’t my favorite narrator, but he did an adequate job of voicing the male characters and various accents. He doesn’t do female voices very well, and all of the female characters sounded very similar, making them hard to distinguish.