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The Mystery of Edwin Drood is Charles Dickens' last novel. As was usual for Dickens, the novel was written and published in serial instalments; Dickens died after completing only six of the projected twelve instalments, leaving the novel incomplete and the mystery unresolved.
The plot revolves around the disappearance (perhaps murder) of Edwin Drood, whose fiancée Rosa Bud is an object of attraction for several other characters, including his uncle, John Jasper, and the proud Neville Landless.
The solution of the mystery is actually known: Drood's uncle, John Jasper, is the murderer. Dickens had told several people whodunnit, and his friend John Forster later published a synopsis of the novel's planned conclusion bringing together various details Dickens had mentioned to him, including Edwin's fate, whodunnit, and the intended fates of other significant characters. This hasn't stopped multiple people writing their own endings, not all of them agreeing with Forster's account.
The novel provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: As The Other Wiki points out, Dickens named Jasper as the murderer to at least three people (his son, his illustrator, and John Forster).
- Arranged Marriage: Rosa Bud and Mr Drood are to enter into a marriage arranged by their late fathers.
- Author Existence Failure
- Cut Short: One of literature's most famous examples.
- Evil Uncle: John Jasper, especially in the versions where he's the murderer.
- Left Hanging: Even with the summary of the ending recounted by Dickens to Forster, some bits are not resolved. The identity and motivation of Dick Datchery remains a complete mystery.
- Names to Trust Immediately: Rosa Bud
- Never Found the Body: Edwin Drood's body remains unfound in the completed portion of the story; at least one continuation has him reappearing alive and well at a dramatically appropriate moment. According to Forster, Dickens' intention was that they would have Finally Found the Body, its location being a pointer to the identity of his murderer.
- Opium Den: John Jasper visits one several times.
- Servile Snarker: Bazzard is incredibly snarky and rude at all times. His employer is such a nice guy that he lets him get away with it, since he feels that Bazzard's going through a lot of trouble just working for him.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Reverend Crisparkle delivers one to Mr Honeythunder that's about a page and a half long.
Notable continuations and adaptations include:
- The 'James version', published in 1873. Written by an American printer, Thomas James, who claimed he had channelled Dickens' ghost.
- The Trial of John Jasper, a one-off event staged by the Dickens Fellowship in 1914, and featuring several literary luminaries, including G. K. Chesterton as the judge and George Bernard Shaw as the foreman of the jury. Played very much for laughs.
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a 1935 film starring David Manners as Edwin Drood and Claude Rains as John Jasper.
- Drood, a musical adaptation with multiple possible endings, the murderer being determined in each performance by audience vote.
- The D. Case, a parodic novel in which various famous fictional detectives each give their opinion on the case.
References in other fiction:
- The Doctor Who episode "The Unquiet Dead", in which Charles Dickens helps the Doctor thwart an alien invasion, ends with Dickens contemplating changing the ending so that Drood's disappearance was caused by aliens; Rose is worried that they've changed history, but the Doctor isn't worried because he knows Dickens won't live to write the ending anyway.
- Simon R. Green's Secret Histories series features a character named Edwin Drood.
- Drood, a Historical Fantasy by Dan Simmons set at the end of Dickens' life, inevitably features the writing of the novel.
- In The Long Divorce by Edmund Crispin, the protagonist adopts the surname "Datchery" when asked to make a covert investigation.