A splendid laugh

“Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years it was a splendid laugh!”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas CarolDecember 1843
(The narrator may be my favorite character in that book.)

Preface

HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.

The most mysterious mystery

Happy October, folks!Bird pumpkin in birdbath

Here’s a mystery and a tragedy to start off the season of spookiness.

…or, as I like to think of it, the month of ambiguous decorations– “Can I make a Jack-O-Lantern soap holder count for autumn and Thanksgiving, too? Is my neglected landscaping finally acceptable as a spooky-house decoration? And, we’re back… a mystery and a tragedy.  Prepare yourself. This may be traumatic. Unless you’re an expert on Charles Dickens, in which case, read on for a good chuckle… and thank your English professors, your favorite Charles Dickens blog, or whatever it is that has preserved you from experiencing the repercussions of the mistake I made last month.

During a perusal of a few shelves at the library, I stumbled onto a pleasant surprise– a book that seemed to combine a beloved genre and a beloved writer. How had I managed to avoid the knowledge that Dickens wrote a mystery? I’m  no Dickens expert– clearly– but I didn’t think I was so oblivious as this discovery suggested.

I took a class on Dickens in college.

I took a Dickens-themed tour of London.

Yet, never had I heard of his forray into the world of straight-up murder mystery. That’s Poe’s realm, isn’t it? And Agatha Christie’s? And, of course, the Hardy Boys, and– you know you want to judge me– the Babysitter Club Mystery Series.

The sad, tragic point is this: I began reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens, with no clue [ha, ha, get it? clue?] that Mr. Dickens died of a stroke in June, 1870, exactly half-way through writing the book. Summary: After reeling you in for twenty-two chapters of mysterious motives, a missing (murdered?) character, and several other “loose ends,” nothing gets solved.I was on page 220 when I made this discovery through a careless glance at the synopsis on the back cover of the book. The paragraph began with something along the lines of,

“The most mysterious thing about the Mystery of Edwin Drood, is what happens in the 22 chapters Dickens didn’t write, sucker!”

After recovering my heartbeat… I kept reading the book. I sustained myself with the hopeful idea that the missing half of the book wasn’t really necessary for the story. I mean, I could confidently speculate on who did it and how he did it… what else is there? Um… plenty. My speculations could be wrong. That’s half the fun of mysteries.

And, this is Dickens, after all.

In fact, Chapter 18 (four chapters shy of the middle– which turned out to be the end) brings in a brand stinkin’ new character (although theories suggest that this is actually one of the other characters in disguise!).

All this is to say, if you crave resolution and are already slightly prone to getting caught up in the crazy in your own head, grab A Tale of Two Cities. You may cringe or cry, but you’ll put the book down with a sense of closure, and most likely be able to move on with your life.

But, if you’re up for a challenge, and can easily separate “real life” from “novel life,” you might be able to handle 22 chapters of engrossing Dickens-style spookiness, with no sigh of resolution at the “end”.

Just prepare your loved ones for the inevitable Chapter 22 “What? For real!? That’s It?” rant.

Happy October!

*First image is from www.bhg.com. Second image from www.amazon.com, cover design by Robert Mathias, cover illustration Hereford Cathedral, Floodlit at Night (1994) by Huw S. Parsons.