Another Review at MyShelf.Com

A Novel

by Dan Simmons
Simon Prebble, Narrator


Drood is not about Charles Dickens. It is the laudanum-laced ramblings (fictional) of Dickens' friend and protégé, Wilkie Collins. The story revolves around a mystical underworld character called Drood who embodies evil through the practice of ancient Egyptian rites and mesmerism (hypnotism). It is up to you to decide whether Drood is one long dream, a conspiracy between Dickens and the Other Wilkie to cripple Collins mentally, an actual criminal threat or some combination. The five years following Dickens' narrow brush with death in a train accident serve as a structure for Collins' narrative, tying it back to reality. Collins was a popular writer in his day, at times more popular than Dickens. He wrote the first modern English detective novel, The Moonstone, and Dickens, the self-named "Inimitable",  turned imitator in the last year of his life as revealed by his unfinished work, The Mystery of Edmund Drood.

Mesmerism is central to the plot in Drood and that is exactly what Simon Prebble does—he mesmerizes you.  I am always enchanted by his interpretation of women, and in Drood the most visceral is the stuttering serving-girl, Agnes. I can see her tear-streaked, doughy face, slightly crossed eyes and confused features when Collins is leading her toward the staircase and her "new opportunity". The most dramatic male interpretation comes near the end when Collins is addressing the reader directly. The ache is apparent as Collins reveals his own worst fear, "I started this memoir years ago with the hopeful dream that you knew me and—much more importantly—that you knew my work, had read my books, had seen my plays. But no, Reader there in the indifferent future, I know now that you have never read The Woman in White or even The Moonstone, much less my Man and Wife or . . . " The disillusionment weighs heavier and heavier through a frantic recitation of now nearly forgotten works. The crescendo of anger and frustration rises into a tortured, "To Hell with you!" and letting you know exactly where you can put Dickens and Drood. It was absolutely mortifying.

I bought The Moonstone the next day.

The Book

Hachette Audio
February 9, 2009
Abridged Audiobook, 9 CDs, 10.5 HRs
1600244637 / 978-1600244636
Historical Mystery (1865-1870), Psychological Thriller
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NOTE: Annual celebration of Christmas mentioned

The Reviewer

Beth E. McKenzie
Reviewed 2009
© 2009