Mystery of Edwin Drood Book Review

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
by Charles Dickens

4 out of 5 stars on GoodREads

Edwin Drood has been engaged to the lovely Rosa Bud since they were children. The engagement was the dearest wish of their deceased parents, and the two have grown used to the idea that when they come of age they will get married despite the lack of real affection between them. But Edwin’s uncle, John Jasper, has a secret passion for Rosa, and she regards him with fear and dread. Edwin sees nothing wrong, and trusts his uncle completely, not knowing that Jasper is an opium addict.

When Edwin goes missing on a stormy Christmas Eve, suspicion falls on an innocent young man, Neville Landless, who had an argument with Edwin weeks before. Jasper vows to bring the murderer to justice, and spends his time spying and searching out his neighbor’s secrets. Frightened by what the impassioned Jasper might do, Rosa flees to her guardian in London and befriends Neville’s sister, Helena. From the opium dens of London to the quiet streets of a country village, the mystery takes many shapes as each character searches for the truth.

It’s amazing to me that even this little fragment of a story still holds such power and interest hundreds of years after it was written!

 Like all Dickens’ books, it’s a slow start with lots of set-up and characters introduced, but some action finally comes in and the dialogue is hilarious in some of the scenes. There’s lots of intrigue and half-hinted secrets as the plot revolves around Edwin and his Uncle Jasper, their connections with their neighbors, and their plans for Edwin’s future.

As with all Dickens’ books, the characters are vibrant and varied in their personalities and backgrounds. Every person is so memorable and interesting! There are at least a dozen supporting characters, which makes me wonder what Dickens had planned for each of them in the final plot. He always introduces a lot of seemingly insignificant people who don’t seem to have a place in the main plot, and then brings them in at the end with important information. There is such a great build-up creating these characters, each with their own style of speaking and their own way of doing things. It’s a shame not to see that played out.

I loved so many of the characters! Rosa Bud is sweet and innocent, but can be serious at times. Her friend Helena Landless is much more world-weary, coming from a broken home, and she feels protective of her little friend Rosa.

Neville Landless is having trouble controlling his temper, and has a wild heart that he is trying to discipline with the help of his tutor, Reverend Crisparkle. The Reverend himself is a good and compassionate man with a level head and common sense. He has a high sense of honor, which prompts him to defend Neville when suspicion falls on him.

Edwin Drood is rather cocky, sure of himself, and a little bit spoiled, but not a bad fellow. He can be kind and generous when he remembers to be, but he isn’t used to thinking about anyone other than himself. He’s not a bad guy, just young enough to still be a little self-centered as we all are at times, and inexperienced enough to think everything will go his way if he just asks for it.

John Jasper is one of those creepy and terrifying villains that only Dickens can write so well. He is so very horrifying because he works quietly behind the scenes. He doesn’t make a fuss, he just lowers his voice and threatens you with a ghoulish smile on his wicked face. You never know what nasty thing he’s going to do next, but he’ll do it secretly, and the world will think he’s just a respectable music teacher. I was so disgusted and freaked out reading about him! Gah! Dickens always has such awful villains, and I love it!

The dialogue is sparkling and full of hidden meanings. Some of the scenes are quite somber and others are simply silly, keeping the story balanced.

I wish there were an ending to this book, because it’s already a powerful story! You can certainly see the direction that Dickens intended to take the plot, and even some of the roles that characters might play in the end, but there are many tantalizing loose ends and unrealized possibilities. It’s such a shame that he didn’t even leave notes or an outline to indicate the ending.

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