The Mystery of Edwin Drood: A Review


The North Carolina Ice Storm—which I’ve heard called Icetastophy—came through the South this week. And I can tell you this California girl was FREEZING! Thank goodness I didn’t have to leave the house. It gave me the chance to catch up on things like housework, schoolwork and, oh yeah, writing. I also had a chance to finally finish the BBC miniseries The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012).

My older son and I sat down and watched part one months ago. Maybe even six months ago. For some reason, we never took the time to finish it. Can you tell we were riveted? So yesterday I remedied that problem.

For those of you who don’t know, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is adapted from the Charles Dickens novel of the same name. The thing about this novel is that it was unfinished at the time of Dickens’ death so there have been speculations ever since that time as to how the master would have concluded the story. Imagine reading this story in installments and in 1870 it just stops after twenty-something chapters due to the author’s death. And no ending?! Can you imagine the fan-fiction we’d have today?

A summary of the plot: An opium-addicted man, John Jasper, envisions murdering his nephew (Edwin Drood) who is engaged to Rosa whom Jasper is secretly in love with.  Edwin disappears and the rest of the story concerns discovering his whereabouts or his body.

You can see how an unfinished story of this kind would baffle readers for generations. In fact, it has been nearly 150 years and academics are still trying to figure out this mystery. The University of Buckingham has launched a project to have the average reader help solve the mystery. Here is a recent article on the project.

Even though the book lacked a denouement that didn’t mean it didn’t excite the imaginations of readers and movie watchers everywhere. Authors have been trying to conclude it since 1870. And film adaptations began as early as 1935. Even Doctor Who included an episode in which Dickens made an appearance and at the end he had come up with a finale to his book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, giving a supernatural explanation to Edwin’s death.

The most obvious conclusion is that Jasper killed him and hid him in the family crypt. It’s the conclusion that has been drawn most frequently. There is evidence to support this conclusion. But I wonder even if Dickens began his story by telling a friend, “The story ... was to be that of the murder of a nephew by his uncle,” perhaps he changed his mind and came up with an ending that would surprise us all. He wouldn’t be the first author to do such a thing.

So, what of this latest adaptation (2012)? I liked the way they ended it because it gave it more of a happy ending. And I do love an HEA. I don’t want to spoil you, but it was a cleverly devised  plot that worked for the character of all concerned. It’s hard to say how Dickens would have concluded his final work. It was only half finished. And if you have any experience with a Dickens novel, the middle of the book is only the beginning of the ride on which he intends to take you.

Watch the 2-part miniseries. I enjoyed it. It’s free on Amazon Prime. 


Robert Doyle said...

Excellent article, Cindy. Dickens is one of my favourites, and yes, the story is quite an enigma; yet I am prone to believe that the logical conclusion is not how Dickens whould have ended it. He was full of surprises. There could be a suble hint contained within; however, he may not have even written the clue before he died. The world may never know. It seems ironic that he died in the middle of fantacizing a mystery death. Was his death of natural causes? Is this in part a true story?

Cindy K. Green said...

Thanks for the comment, Robert. I agree. I think Dickens had an ending that we didn't even expect. That's why I like the ending of the new miniseries. It's like nothing that has even been done before on film.

His death? He was overworked, had just suffered the loss of his adult son and his mother, his health was failing and he continued on even doing live appearances. It's believed he had a stroke.