“Surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alone.”
― Matthew Pearl, The Last Dickens

The literary works of Charles Dickens have been widely acclaimed since the 19th century. One of his most famous works is his final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, published as sequential instalments. In this era, production in book form often followed serialization, which was one of the main reasons nineteenth-century novels were so long. However, in the middle of writing Drood, Dickens suffered a stroke and passed away. His death shocked his fans, with many wondering about the author’s intentions for his final novel. The biggest mystery was who the murderer of Edwin Drood was. Just who did Dickens intend the killer to be? Was it to be Edwin’s uncle, John Jasper, an opium addict obsessed with his nephew’s fiancée? Although it seems likely that this character was the intended killer, we’ll never know for sure. [Author Image Property of Matthew Pearl]

The Last Dickens, the third novel by Matthew Pearl, a best-selling author, educator, and Harvard graduate, is a thrilling historical mystery. The story is set in the mid-nineteenth century and revolves around real-life literary figures, including Charles Dickens himself. Pearl’s masterful storytelling weaves the fictional and historical elements together, creating a captivating and immersive reading experience. While some liberties are taken with historical facts, the story’s mystery successfully intertwines with the scandals of the era, making for an exciting and unforgettable journey through the world of literature and intrigue.

Paperback Edition

In the wake of Charles Dickens’s untimely demise, the esteemed yet floundering American publishing house Fields & Osgood find themselves in a dire predicament. With an unfinished manuscript by the legendary author at stake, they send their young clerk, Daniel Sand, to retrieve it. However, tragedy strikes when Daniel is discovered murdered on the Boston docks, leaving the publishers in a state of shock and confusion. Determined to save the business and uncover the truth behind Daniel’s death, junior publisher James Ripley Osgood embarks on a perilous transatlantic journey to locate the missing manuscript and discover the killer. Along the way, he enlists the help of divorcee Rebecca Sand, Daniel’s older sister, a bookkeeper at Fields & Osgood, who wants answers for the murder and justice for her brother.

Pearl’s captivating portrayal of the 19th-century publishing industry is exceptionally well-researched and deftly written. The story revolves around the Boston-based Fields & Osgood publishing house, a real-life establishment that had an exclusive agreement with Dickens for publication in the United States. Unfortunately, after the author’s death, the company found itself in a precarious position, pitted against the predatory Harper Brothers from New York. Publishing houses struggled in this era because of the lack of well-defined international copyright laws, which gave rise to bookaneers, a group of literary pirates. Pearl masterfully weaves these historical truths into the narrative, creating a palpable underbelly of the publishing world that is both suspenseful and intriguing. [Image On Left: Modern Paperback Edition of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Edited & With An Introduction By Matthew Pearl.]

The Last Dickens is exceptional, filled with an atmospheric and intricately woven plot. Though it isn’t as gothic or macabre as Dan Simmon’s Drood, another modern historical novel tackling the mystery surrounding Dicken’s last book, it incorporates the best of gumshoe fiction with adventure, tension, and wholly intelligent writing. And there’s a touch of romance, too. The narrative is viscerally and descriptively written, and the story’s pacing is expertly executed, never coming off as dry or plodding. Pearl’s explanation and resolution of the mystery and murder are logical and exciting, leading to a satisfying ending—except for poor Daniel. This novel is a no-brainer if you enjoy well-written and thought-provoking historical mysteries.

The Last Dickens is available for purchase at, and Barnes & Noble. For more information about this author, follow Matthew Pearl on Instagram & Facebook and visit his Website.





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