The Mystery of Charles Dickensby John Paulits
History records that on June 9, 1870, Charles Dickens died of a cerebral haemorrhage. History, however, is wrong. June 9, 1870, is the day on which Emile de la Rue murdered Charles Dickens. During a stay in Genoa in 1844-45, Charles Dickens, an accomplished mesmerist, used his mesmeric abilities to treat a young Englishwoman, Augusta de la Rue, attempting to cure a years' long malady of hers that included facial spasms and phantom-filled dreams. During her trances she revealed to Dickens a truth she had long suppressed-the knowledge that her husband murdered a rival so he could have her for himself. Dickens, at that time, was helpless to act on the devastating admission, but twenty-five years later Emile de la Rue shows up in London, and Dickens finally seeks justice. De La Rue cannot let this happen and stops at nothing to keep Dickens from revealing his secret.
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The latest novel by John Paulits, The Mystery of Charles Dickens, is a fascinating and easy read. It speculates on the real reason of Dickens’ early death. Obviously, after all these years there is no easy way to determine the reason. Paulits says that he has evidence of his findings. However, the narrative of the book reads like a good detective novel, and the final unfolding is still full of tension. The book held my interest from Chapter 1 to the end. However, for some reason I did not like the writing style of the Prologue. The illness of Augusta de la Rue and Dickens’ cure took up much of the book but remained interesting. I loved the characterization of Dickens and those around him. One got a real feel for Catherine, who had far too many children to care for, and who felt frustrated by her being an inferior to Dickens in status. Where he had freedom to occupy his time in the entertainment of his choosing, it was improper for Catherine to act in the same way. Augusta appeared to have some form of nervous or mental disorder. According to the novel, Dickens decided to work on curing her through mesmerism. The whole interplay, as she begins in her subconscious to unveil what has terrified her since the second week of her marriage to the banker Emile de la Rue, is page turningly captivating. Dickens had a good grasp of how to do the procedure, and at first Dickens and Emile de la Rue become good friends. What is fascinating about this book is the way in which it ties in Dickens’ own novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the story around Emile and Augusta de la Rue. It seems to the reader that Paulits has solved 2 murders, one contained in the Mystery of Edwin Drood, and the other the suspicion that Dickens did not die of natural causes. This book is thoroughly enjoyable. I love the many extra details of Dickens’ daily life that creep into this novel. It feels historically accurate, and is a written in such a way that one can hardly wait to keep on reading it. As next summer both GRAD (Great Riverside Area Dickens) and the Dickens Universe in Santa Cruz will be concentrating on the Dickens novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, it has even more appeal. It adds possibilities to Edwin Drood that are new and thought provoking. Reading The Mystery of Charles Dickens was a very pleasurable experience.
This 180 "page turner" book is quite an accomplishment. Paulits has brilliantly dovetailed events of the 1840s when Dickens performed a mesmerism "cure" while residing in Italy upon Mme de la Rue who was having horrific nightmares--with Dickens' final novel of 1870, "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." Paulits' plot "reveals" that Dickens was actually murdered before completing his novel. The characterizations of Dickens in his last, debilitated days and of his friend John Forster are masterful. Dickens fans will certainly enjoy this unique "Drood" spin-off.