Customer Reviews for

The Last Dickens

Average Rating 3.5
( 97 )
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5 Star

(17)

4 Star

(36)

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(27)

2 Star

(8)

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(9)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

A good read!

This book is everything I have come to expect from Matthew Pearl. Publishers Weekly was way off base saying that it "fell short" of the standards set by Simmon's "Drood." I could barely get through "Drood" and wished I hadn't tried when I finished it.....this book I c...
This book is everything I have come to expect from Matthew Pearl. Publishers Weekly was way off base saying that it "fell short" of the standards set by Simmon's "Drood." I could barely get through "Drood" and wished I hadn't tried when I finished it.....this book I can't turn the pages fast enough. It is filled with good solid characters and a story that does not drag on in the least bit. Very suspenseful and entertaining.

posted by 2manybooks2littletime on March 20, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

The plot is quite good, but it was extremely poorly delivered.

On June 8, 1880, Charles Dickens suddenly dies. When the news reaches Boston, his American Publisher, Boston's Fields and Osgood & Co., is placed in jeopardy. Through them, Dickens had published six installments of his latest novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With ...
On June 8, 1880, Charles Dickens suddenly dies. When the news reaches Boston, his American Publisher, Boston's Fields and Osgood & Co., is placed in jeopardy. Through them, Dickens had published six installments of his latest novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With the novel unfinished, the struggling Boston publishing company is in jeopardy of being taken over by the New York Publisher Harper and Brother.

Mr. James Ripley Osgood, and Miss Rebecca Sands are sent to England to look for clues to see if they can find any leads as to how Dickens was planning to finish the novel. Miss Sand's brother, Daniel, was killed as he was sent to the harbor to receive the last installment of the novel.

Danger and intrigue abound throughout the journey. As they attempt to uncover real life mysteries hidden by the unfinished novel, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves fighting a dangerous web of publishing houses thugs, drug dealers (opium was legal in those days). They soon realize that solving the puzzle is a matter of life and death, and the key to stopping a murderous mastermind.

This is in essence the plot. However, after a brilliant debut with The Dante Club, Mr. Pearl's first novel, he has followed with two disasters. The Poe Shadow, and now The Last Dickens.

The problem with Dickens is first of all that Mr, Pearl has chosen a universal point of view to tell us his story. Few writers can get away with that, and Mr. Pearl is not one of them. Within chapters you get lost trying to figure out who's talking.

The second problem with the book, and related to the first is the incredible number of characters. At one point i had to stop and start writing who was who. Not only that, but in the middle of a chapter Mr. Pearl decides to update us on something that happened way back. There are changes of scene (from India, to America to England) and flashbacks that come and go and create such a tangle that he had lost me by the second "installment".

Finally, the tedious detail and research are quite boring. By the last installment when we FINALLY untangle and discover the truth--i felt like: who cares.

This could have been a great novel if Mr. Pearl had chosen a better editor. The plot is quite good, but it was extremely poorly delivered.

posted by carlosmock on March 25, 2009

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  • Posted March 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The plot is quite good, but it was extremely poorly delivered.

    On June 8, 1880, Charles Dickens suddenly dies. When the news reaches Boston, his American Publisher, Boston's Fields and Osgood & Co., is placed in jeopardy. Through them, Dickens had published six installments of his latest novel: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With the novel unfinished, the struggling Boston publishing company is in jeopardy of being taken over by the New York Publisher Harper and Brother.

    Mr. James Ripley Osgood, and Miss Rebecca Sands are sent to England to look for clues to see if they can find any leads as to how Dickens was planning to finish the novel. Miss Sand's brother, Daniel, was killed as he was sent to the harbor to receive the last installment of the novel.

    Danger and intrigue abound throughout the journey. As they attempt to uncover real life mysteries hidden by the unfinished novel, Osgood and Rebecca find themselves fighting a dangerous web of publishing houses thugs, drug dealers (opium was legal in those days). They soon realize that solving the puzzle is a matter of life and death, and the key to stopping a murderous mastermind.

    This is in essence the plot. However, after a brilliant debut with The Dante Club, Mr. Pearl's first novel, he has followed with two disasters. The Poe Shadow, and now The Last Dickens.

    The problem with Dickens is first of all that Mr, Pearl has chosen a universal point of view to tell us his story. Few writers can get away with that, and Mr. Pearl is not one of them. Within chapters you get lost trying to figure out who's talking.

    The second problem with the book, and related to the first is the incredible number of characters. At one point i had to stop and start writing who was who. Not only that, but in the middle of a chapter Mr. Pearl decides to update us on something that happened way back. There are changes of scene (from India, to America to England) and flashbacks that come and go and create such a tangle that he had lost me by the second "installment".

    Finally, the tedious detail and research are quite boring. By the last installment when we FINALLY untangle and discover the truth--i felt like: who cares.

    This could have been a great novel if Mr. Pearl had chosen a better editor. The plot is quite good, but it was extremely poorly delivered.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2009

    No Dante's Club

    Pearl's latest work plods along. Over a hundred pages of it could've been edited out and you would have missed nothing. If it is a real intriquing book you're looking for, this isn't it. Since the Dante Club his following novels read sometimes as if they are gasping for air.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Bookaneers, a creepy guy with a dangerous walking stick, and Dickens! What's not to love?

    The Short of It:

    A literary adventure of the most enjoyable kind. The Last Dickens is a historical literary thriller that includes a good dose of mystery, lots of bookish references and a smattering of romance all rolled into one.

    The Rest of It:

    The Last Dickens is a fictionalization that focuses on the unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Although the novel started out a tad slow for me, it didn't take long for me to get into the story or its characters. As I was reading, I found myself thinking about silent films from the early 1900's. Why, you ask? Well, the villains in those films were these creepy, shadowy apparitions that appeared out of nowhere. There is much of that in this novel as well. Additionally, the lure of the opium dens and their smoky interiors add to the mysterious air of the novel. Films from that era had to rely on setting and the setting that Pearl paints, draws the reader in.

    However, what I really enjoyed were the passages about Dickens himself. Pearl does an excellent job of making Dickens an accessible, compassionate human being. The eccentricities of the author shine through, yet he is a bit softer around the edges...more likable I guess. Earlier in the year I read Drood by Dan Simmons. In that novel, the sections that dealt with Dickens and his American tour seemed a tad tedious to get through. I didn't find that to be the case with The Last Dickens. Pearl takes the time to focus on Dickens as a man, and not just his readings alone. I felt that this alone helped the reader understand how much this man was loved by his readers.

    Another item of importance is that it is not necessary for you to have read any of Dickens's work. Doing so certainly adds to the experience but The Last Dickens does not require it of the reader. Overall, this reading adventure was well worth the trip and I look forward to reading Pearl's other works.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

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    A good read!

    This book is everything I have come to expect from Matthew Pearl. Publishers Weekly was way off base saying that it "fell short" of the standards set by Simmon's "Drood." I could barely get through "Drood" and wished I hadn't tried when I finished it.....this book I can't turn the pages fast enough. It is filled with good solid characters and a story that does not drag on in the least bit. Very suspenseful and entertaining.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting Topic but the Story Plods

    I'm an avid reader and rarely does it happen that I cannot finish a book, but this one is getting to be a challenge. The plot is simply too plodding. Sure, I'll finish it. It's not in my nature to quit, but chances are I'll read a few other novels in between.
    I do like the original idea of this story and some of the interesting tidbits presented about Dicken's life has made me want to pick up a non-fiction biography on the man. For this reason alone, I am giving the story three stars. If you are into Dickensian novels, a better choice is "Mr. Timothy, by Louis Bayard.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Has the mystery been solved?

    "The Last Dickens", the latest novel by Matthew Pearl, focuses on Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". With the death of Mr. Dickens, what will become of his final manuscript? Is it really unfinished? If yes, did Dickens leave behind any clues as to how the novel would end? If no, where are the remaining pages? These are a few of the questions that arise at the start of the novel. When James Osgood, Dickens' American publisher, fails to obtain the first installment of Drood, he travels to London to see if these questions can be answered. This sounds like a simple task; however, I don't believe that simple is a word in Mr. Pearl's vocabulary. He creates an air of mystery surrounding these missing pages. Peppered with actual events, thievery, drugs and murder, the novel takes the reader on a journey of speculation - one plausible scenario regarding the fate of Drood - if curious, you must read for yourself. The story was broken down into three distinct story lines. Two of which complimented one another: Dickens's first American tour and the aftermath of Dickens's death. The third revolved around the life of Dickens' son in India. I enjoyed the plot and the writing; however, the obscure connection of this last story line to the rest of the novel, left me wanting.
    -----
    I recommend to those who have read other works by Matthew Pearl and/or those who enjoy historical fiction, Dickens or the publishing world. I also recommend to those of you who have not read Matthew Pearl.
    -----
    Other novels by Matthew Pearl: "The Dante Club", "Poe's Shadow". My favorite was "The Dante Club".

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 22, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    A "Dickens" of A Mystery

    Masterful, creative, inventive, exciting, part ficiton & part fact, riveting ~~~ all these make "The Last Dickens" a superb novel. Mr Pearl has taken an original mystery (Charles Dickens last novel) & crafted a riveting who-dunnit by thoroughly researching Mr Dickens & London society in the 1870s. An excellent "read" for anyone on a rainy afternoon who is enjoys historical ficiton or a good mystery.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

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    Misleading Back Cover

    When I picked up this book and read the back cover, I thought it sounded like the perfect adventure book, full of romance, mystery, intrigue, and excitement and it was all that eventually. The book is 387 pages long and it didn't get excititng until about 300. Oh sure there were some parts that made you wonder what would happen next, but they were quickly resolved. And as for the romance, don't buy this book if you are expecting a tale of exciting passion and love. Overall it was an okay read, but the back cover alone was almost more excting than the whole thing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2010

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    Opium, murder, greed and Dickens

    Is it at all possible that opium, murder, Bookeneers and greedy publishers played a significant part in Charles Dickens' last and perhaps unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Author Matthew Pearl seems to think so in his novel, The Last Dickens and weaves an intricate storyline which is nicely presented in a period style six installments.
    The reader travels with Dicken's during his last tour of the U.S., then on to India where the opium trade is integral to many countries and of course England where Dickens died. Where are the last installments of Edwin Drood? Who has them? Were they in fact written, if not, who will complete them? A lot of money rests on the answers and some cutthroat publishers will stop at nothing to find them.

    In The Last Dickens, Matthew Pearl attributes this quote to Charles Dickens, "The books do pretend...But that is not all. Novels are filled with lies, but squeezed in between is even more that is true - without what you may call the lies, the pages would be too light for the truth, you see? The writer of books always puts himself in, his real self, but you must be careful of not taking him for his next door neighbor." It is appropriate because Pearl does a fabulous job walking in Dickens' footsteps. Fact melds with ficton and one can hardly see where one ends and the other begins.

    The novel is rather slow at times and for that I would rate it a three but a four star conclusion brings it to 3 1/2 stars

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Matthew Pearl Does It Again!

    I have read The Dante Club, The Technologists and The Last Dickens and find them to be in the same historical mystery genre as The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Pearl's books bring history back to life and reignite the fascination with the history of America that I had as a teenager. While this is my least favorite of the three that I have read, it was still worth the purchase and the reading.

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  • Posted May 9, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Pearl is really terrific. Great cameos from some of his previous

    Pearl is really terrific. Great cameos from some of his previous characters. Also, he does a great job of styling his writing in this one to sound Dickensian. Only problem is now I'll have to read Edwin Drood. Probably should have first.

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  • Posted April 22, 2012

    BUY IT!

    Another wonderful book from Matthew Pearl. Charles Dickens had written the first 6 installments of THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. Readers followed the story as each installment was printed in newspapers. The untimely death of Mr. Dickens shocked the literary world, broke the hearts of readers and sent his publishers back on their heels. Did Mr. Dickens finish the story? If so who has the manuscript? Was Edwin Drood murdered or is he still alive? What about Charles Dickens family?
    One hundred and forty years later Matthew Pearl takes us into the mystery surrounded by a mystery and wraps them with his mystery! All the characters, both real and ficticious, would put a smile on Mr. Dickens face. Mr. Pearl puts a smile on mine.

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  • Posted August 16, 2011

    Good book

    Something a little bit different but held my attention and I enjoyed it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    Great read

    I enjoyed learning more about the man behimd the masterpieces. Very good

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    Poor; don't waste your money

    Poorly written; boring characters

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2010

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    Very Good Book - I recommend it.

    In the same vein as Pearl's previous books, The Poe Shadow and The Dante Club, this is very good historical fiction exploring the publishing world and one of the world's best-loved writers, Charles Dickens. Pearl is a meticulous researcher and a grand storyteller.

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  • Posted September 8, 2010

    C+ Rebound from Poe Shadow

    Better book than Poe Shadow. Not as good as his first.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

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    Wonderful read!

    Historical fiction is not something I read often. I normally enjoy it when I do read it though. And this book was no exception. I found the time line in the story a little tricky with the order things we presented. This didn't detract from my enjoyment though. It just meant that I sometimes had to refer to the chapter title to put everything in the proper place.

    The ending of the book was extremely entertaining. I literally sat in the parking lot at work in order to finish the story without waiting to get home.

    I highly recommend this book for anyone that enjoys a good mystery. And anyone that likes historical fiction. Dickens fans will also enjoy this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    Dickens Comes to Life

    I enjoyed this mystery that brought the famous writer Charles Dickens to life. Pearl does a great job in characterizing Dickens and his troupe and sheds a possible light on the ending of Dickens unfinished work. I particulary enjoyed the American book tour which paints a time very different from our modern times, where Dickens the celebrity meets his fans face-to-face on stage traveling from city to city - and how some of those fans can be crazed stalkers just like fans can be today. I highly recommend this mystery that sheds light on the business world of old and how it was a nasty then as it can be today.

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  • Posted January 14, 2010

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    A good mystery that will make you want to read Dickens.

    Set in alternating time periods of 1870 post-Charles Dickens's death, and 1867 during his American reading tour, The Last Dickens is Matthew Pearl's idea of what could have happened to the last six installments of the last novel ever written by Dickens: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Taking real facts and blending them with research, The Last Dickens is a fun mystery that makes you more of a Dickens fan than a Matthew Pearl fan, but it's still decent enough.

    The book opens in Bengal, India in June 1870 and introduces us to two mounted policemen, Mason and Turner, who sadly don't have much to do with the rest of the book. Yes they come back, but the parts set in India serve only to illustrate the booming opium trade (central to The Mystery of Edwin Drood) and introduce one of Charles Dickens's sons, Francis. Neither Francis, nor Mason and Turner have a huge role in the remaining novel, so I am not certain why this was the first chapter of the first installment, nor really why they were there to begin with.

    Then we meet the team of Fields and Osgood, Dickens's American publishers who are struggling to stay in business and keep their Dickens to themselves. Sent on a mission for the two publishers, Daniel Sand, their clerk, dies while trying to receive the latest Dickens installments (numbers five and six) from England. Sand is run over after being chased by a scary man from India, and Osgood must travel to England with Sand's sister, Rebecca, to unravel the enigma behind the end of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. They go searching for clues to see if Dickens perhaps had an idea of how Drood was to end so they can publish the true ending before poachers swoop in. Sand's death is used as a way of making the book intriguing, of uniting Osgood and Rebecca, and giving them a reason to travel to England together. There's also a lawyer who dies, some "Bookaneers" who hangout at the docks trying to steal novels from each other for publishers, and a crazy lady who stalks Dickens during his tour thrown in for the mix.

    Basically, there was a LOT going on in this novel, which normally I enjoy because I like to piece all the puzzle parts together on my own, but this was a little overwhelming. Lots of strings that were neatly tied at the end, but left me aggravated wondering why they were there to begin with. I think Pearl tried too hard with Dickens to make a good, natural mystery into something more sensational. The India and opium trade plotlines served only to fill space, and the lady stalking Dickens served only as a means to an end for the question of whether Dickens had already written the second half of Drood.

    In general, I was underwhelmed by this book. I loved Pearl's The Dante Club and would place this book below that, but above his second book, The Poe Shadow. It all seemed a tad scattered to me, but I do want to go read The Mystery of Edwin Drood now.

    3 stars

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