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As one critic has noted, The Mystery of Edwin Drood may be the best of all mystery/detective stories because it is incomplete, cut short by Charles Dickens' death in 1870. This unfinished state of the novel has given endless hours of delight to readers who try to solve the several mysteries that are unexplained at the point where the novel breaks off. Wendy Jacobson's Companion to "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," one of a projected series of companions for each of Dickens' novels, attempts to identify as far as possible all sources, parallels, and references found in the text, and also points out some of the more important completions to the story that have been printed in notes and articles. In her cogent introduction, Jacobson indicates that the most frequent sources for Drood were Collins' Moonstone, Hugo's Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Macbeth. The main body of her book is then made up of notes and annotations of these and less obvious sources. Admittedly several of the identifications are speculative, for throughout Jacobson uses phrases such as "Dickens may be recalling," "seems to be derived from," "perhaps alluding to." Jacobson finds aphorisms, proverbs, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, popular songs, as well as numerous references to history and contemporary political and social events, and every allusion or reference is traced, often quoted, and commented on. Notes indicate parallels between ideas, themes, characters, events, and settings found in Dickens' own earlier works. Jacobson also reviews manuscript revisions made by Dickens. Some of these, which indicate he did not want to reveal too much about certain characters or incidents too early in his plot, show that Dickens definitely thought of Drood as a mystery.
Jacobson's Companion is a well-researched and provocative book. Somewhere in all this mass of information about sources and revisions may lie clues for the ultimate solution to the mysteries in Dickens' half-finished novel. And this extensive record of the raw materials woven by Dickens into Drood reveals something of his creative imagination at work. However, Jacobson hopes that her companion-study will help place Drood beside Dickens' other major novels as a literary work: "The stress on the theme of integration and resurrection restores The Mystery of Edwin Drood to lovers of literature. The neglected artistry of the novel . . . rests its claim as a work of art upon its explanation of the mystery of life, not upon its being a source for literary detectives."
The detective story began as a recognized literary form seventeen years after the appearance of Dickens' Drood with the publication of Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (1887). Sherlock Holmes caught the imagination of readers in a way no other character in fiction ever has. With the centennial of the creation of Holmes, [End Page 367] Doyle himself has begun to receive more scholarly attention. In The Unknown Conan Doyle, Gibson and Green have edited a selection of Doyle's correspondence published in newspapers, journals, and magazines. Unfortunately for the recent reassessment of Doyle as a writer, he said very little in these letters about Sherlock Holmes (only two references) and almost nothing about his other writing, though occasionally he was impatient with piracy of his own work or defended opinions published in his nonfiction, especially about the Boer War and spiritualism. He does comment on or disagree with such authors as Max Beerbohm, Hall Caine, Hardy, Shaw, and Wells, but not about major literary matters. Yet if Doyle...