The Edwin Drood Murders is a great escape. Imagine a little town in the Northwest corner of Oregon, nestled up to Astoria, called Dickens Junction. The town’s founder set up this village to recreate the look and feel of Dickens novels. Of course it doesn’t include the tenements, poor citizens and horrible air quality of 19th century London, rather it substitutes Dickens for Disney in creating a cozy little tourist town.
This is the second of Christopher Lord’s Dickens Junction mysteries, the first: The Christmas Carol Murders. (This town may have the highest per capita murder rate in Oregon) Each mystery features one novel, in this case The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which Dickens was unable to finish. I have to confess that I have never read Edwin Drood, but I don’t think that it marred my enjoyment of this book.
The story begins with the International Droodist Society coming to Astoria and Dickens Junction for their annual conference. There are numerous Dickens scholars and aficionados who spend considerable time making their cases for who killed Edwin Drood in Dickens’ novel. It doesn’t take long before one of the conference attendees is murdered, a precious jewel goes missing, and everyone seems to have something to hide. The protagonist and sleuth is Simon Alistair, grandson of the founder of Dickens Junction and owner of the local bookstore. He is fresh off solving the Christmas Carol murders, and he has the bug to solve another. His help is not welcomed by local law enforcement, but Simon will not be put off.
The details of the book are what makes it fun. Some of the characters are campy, some just silly, but none of them are boring. Simon’s relationship with his lover Zach offers a bit of romance, and Lord’s obvious love of the culinary arts provides sumptuous meals as well. The illustrations are reminiscent of drawing found in many editions of Dickens novels. Overall, a fun read on a cold or rainy weekend.