Little Brown, Feb 2009, $26.99
As novelist Wilkie Collins narrates on 9 June 1865, fifty three years old Charles Dickens accompanied by his secret mistress takes the train from Folkestone to London. In their car were three people, Charles, Ellen Tiernan and her mother. However, near the Stapelhurst railroad viaduct, a human error leads to the destruction where a bridge was under repair. Dickens and the Tiernan female pair survive.
Dickens tries to help others though it looks hopeless. Amidst the carnage, he meets another apparent survivor, morbid Edwin Drood, who survived the ordeal due to his traveling inside a coffin. Drood vanishes while Dickens follows his trail to the nastiest decadent side of London. As Collins continues his account, he wonder if Drood ever existed and whether Dickens made him to cover nefarious dealings.
This is an excellent historical thriller that looks closely at the last few years of Dickens’ life using the unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and other historical facts as a basis for this wonderful account. The story line grips the audience from Collins’ opening monologue and never slows down with readers scrutinizing clues throughout as to whether Dickens’ lost his mind, concealed his activities with the invention of Drood as the narrator believes, or if Drood lived. Dan Simmons is at his best with this insightful psychological Victorian thriller.