The Edwin Drood Murders by Christopher Lord

Drood MurdersOK, let’s see how far I can get into this review without using the phrase “What the Dickens”, shall we?

Dickens Junction is a small town in Oregon, populated with eccentric, some may say Dickensian, characters. The most normal of these seems to be Simon Alastair, antiquarian book dealer and part time sleuth. As he attempts to convince his boyfriend Zach to move in with him, he is also organising the latest convention of Droodians – enthusiasts of Dickens’ last, unfinished work.

As various delegates gather, excitement begins to grow as one of them reveals the existence of a missing set of notes that Dickens made about the solution of the case. But such a valuable artefact is an outstanding motive for murder…

I’m not a massive fan of Dickens, I should point that out from the start. You can blame that on school days I’m afraid – in particular one English teacher who decided that the class were going to read an abridged version of A Tale Of Two Cities. When finding that he was one book short for the class, yours truly was presented with a copy of the full text, which had to be read at the same pace as the lucky rest of the class. Their version wasn’t much better than a picture book, by the way. I was twelve at the time – speed-reading Dickens was not my idea of a fun evening’s entertainment… So that, coupled with having to read the laugh-a-minute Hard Times for O-level, means that I’ve only read the two books of his and don’t really have any intention of reading any more.

As such, there’s a slew of background bits and bobs that went right over my head. There’s some general stuff in the Dickens Junction setting, such as some extremely strange names, that I presume are Dickens in-jokes that went straight over my head. This goes hand in hand with some background on The Mystery Of Edwin Drood that would have made a little more sense of some of the conference talk. But while this background flavour was out of my reach, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book.

It’s a nice little mystery, with the traditional set-up. A finite set of suspects, a peculiar crime scene, plenty of motives, it’s everything that the traditional mystery needs. The characters are likeable, in particular Simon and Zach, and the story trundles along nicely. The killer came as a surprise to me, and despite the use of something that is usually frowned upon in these books – although thematically it makes sense – it all fits together well, and comes to a satisfying conclusion.

While the Dicken-ness may not to be to everyone’s taste – it seems an interesting choice for the hook of a cozy series – it’s certainly worth a look. I’ll be tracking down a copy of the opening book of the series – The Christmas Carol Murders – when I get the chance, and there will be another in the series soon. Until then, this one is Recommended.

My copy of the book was provided by the publisher. It’s available now, and is an absolute bargain as an ebook – less than two quid in the UK. Well worth it.

Oh, and I didn’t say “What The Dickens”! Well done me!

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12 comments

  1. Sounds like a winner! I read another book based on a conference of Dickens scholars meeting to discuss Drood some time ago. All I can tell you about it is that it was not nearly as good as you’ve made this one sound. I don’t remember the name of the book or the author. It was big, thick, and duller than ditchwater, though.

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  2. I’m not a huge fan of Dickens either so I’ve avoided this series. But you’ve made it sound interesting enough to give it try. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  3. I was disappointed with the solution. Is it really possible to influence a person in this manner?
    Also, in my opinion, there is an overdose of homosexuality. The main character Simon is a gay having a male lover. Not content with this, the author introduces another gay couple who flaunt their gay behaviour. I am interested in a good mystery not in gay romance.

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    • With regards the solution, I’ve seen THAT used in a much worse manner in mystery novels before. And thematically, if you know a bit about Drood, it makes sense.

      As for the romance angle, it probably wins by a mile as to the most common subplot in a mystery novel – either the detective or their helper juggling his or her lovelife while solving a murder. I found it refreshing that a gay relationship was presented so matter-of-factly, without making any issue of it at all. In fact both of the relationships had a lot more heart in them than you often find in classic mysteries, and they didn’t derail the plot. Not a problem for me.

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  4. Thanks so much for the great review and for being spoiler-free! And I appreciate your defense of both a plot device (influenced both by Dickens, Drood, and The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins) and of Simon’s romance plot. If I didn’t push any buttons when I write something than I wouldn’t be doing my job. Part of what I’m aiming for here is the unexpected juxtaposition of multiple genres–the Golden Age mystery, the “book” book subgenre, the M/M romance–with tropes and such liberally lifted from Dickens. Oh, yes, and some humor. The presence of gay characters is Dickens Junction is supposed to be matter-of-fact–Dickens Junction is place that you would like to believe exists, but doesn’t quite–yet. Thanks for supporting my work in the heart of Dickens country itself.

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