Helena Landless and her twin brother Neville travel from Ceylon to England after the death of their stepfather. In the sleepy cathedral town of Cloisterham they become entangled in the mysterious disappearance of young Edwin Drood one stormy night. Did hot-headed Neville murder him in a fit of temper, as Edwin’s grief-stricken uncle insists? Could he have accidentally drowned following a night of carousing or even taken his own life? Or did he fall victim to an enemy no one suspects? In a story that ranges from the picturesque quaintness of an English cathedral town where not everyone may be as respectable as they appear to the dark streets and seedy back alleys of Victorian London, a determined young woman sets out to prove her brother’s innocence by discovering what really happened that fateful night. Based on Charles Dickens’ last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Helena Landless re-tells the story from the point of view of a young woman with secrets of her own caught up in the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Edwin Drood.
Did he or didn’t he?
“ And if he was murdered,” I said, “Who was the murderer?” “Perhaps we will never know,” he said. “Perhaps it is one of those mysteries never meant to be solved.”
Edwin Drood is dead, and Helena Landless is out to prove her twin brother was not the culprit. However, in a world where who you are and who you know counts, can she prove the murder might not be as it seems?
Based loosely on the unfinished manuscript (turned stage play) by Charles Dickens that was discovered in his papers after his death in 1870. And Madden has used it as the foundation of and entertaining story set in Victorian England that, at times skewers the expectations of the “landed” gentry as they try to solve the mystery that brings them all together in a way they probably wouldn’t otherwise.
Utilizing Dickens’ notorious way of characterizing people by their names and descriptors, the author takes people out of the safety of their comfort zones into the seedy backstreets of London, and tells the story through the eyes of a woman who is unaware of what is expected of her as she moves towards maturity and unexpected acceptance in a world where she has no roots.
This book does have some plodding moments. I found myself wishing things moved faster and I think that’s exactly what Madden set out to do: to not change Dickens but to use both his manuscript and historical sociology to solve The Mystery of Edwin Drood.