First off, i have to admit that i have not read ANY Dickens as an adult. I know i had to read a few in high school but managed to avoid it in college. So i only know the vaguest overview of his stories and had no idea he'd left one unfinished when he died. The Last Dickens is the second book i've read by Matthew Pearl. I read The Poe Shadow before i started this blog and this new one feels very similar.
James Ripley Osgood is a publisher in Boston. He and his older partner Fields are trying to keep their business from being swallowed by New York publisher Harper's. Their success rests on being the only authorized publisher of Dickens in the US. But when Dickens' death leaves them without an ending and their secretary Daniel Sand dies mysteriously while retrieving the pages Dickens did write, Osgood begins to investigate. With Rebecca Sand, Daniel's sister and a bookkeeper at the publishing house, Osgood goes to England to discover what Dickens intended to write. They uncover the real life saga that Dickens based his story on and become involved with fighting an opium ring. Exciting stuff!
I give this one a strong 5. It would have been a 6 but the character i really liked, Tom Branagan, was mainly involved in flashbacks and had a less important part in the present of the story. I did feel it was a little long too. One chunk that could have been cut was the part dealing with Dickens' son's adventures as an army officer in India. I really don't see what that bit was supposed to do for the story. if anyone else knows, please enlighten me!
Matthew Pearl does seem to have a bit of weird luck. The Poe Shadow came out at about the same time as A Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard which was about Poe investigating a murder while he was at West Point. Then now, he writes a mystery novel involving Dickens and The Mystery of Edwin Drood just a month after a giant novel called Drood is released. BTW, i just picked up Drood from the library today so i'll have a good chance to compare these.