Press Release: Solve the Mystery of Edwin Drood

5 January 2015

Did Rosa do it with the candlestick in the conservatory? Or was it Jasper in the kitchen with the lead piping? The general public has the chance to solve one of the biggest literary murder mysteries ever – the fate of Dickens’ Edwin Drood.  Dickens’ unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, isn’t complete because the author passed away and now enthusiasts are coming forward to suggest the most likely ending to the Victorian novel.  The story is about Edwin, who is engaged to Rosa, though neither loves each other. Edwin’s guardian, John Jasper, is besotted with Rosa. When Edwin disappears one stormy night everyone fears he may be dead.

The University of Buckingham has set up a website which contains a scanned edition of the author’s novel, which was published in monthly instalments in 1870. There are also character profiles and summaries of the plot on the website. Members of the public are invited to offer their views as part of the biggest ever survey of possible endings.

Experts on Charles Dickens will reveal which is the most popular suggested finish in April when a new exhibition about the book, organised by the University of Buckingham, launches at The Charles Dickens Museum, London. The exhibition will feature extracts from the University’s internationally-acclaimed Dickens Journals Online (DJO) project, which has made available online editions of Dickens’ weekly magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round, which not only carried instalments of such well known novels as Great Expectations, Hard Times, North and South, but also poetry, investigative journalism, travel writing, popular science, history and political comment.

There is a blog linked to the Drood Inquiry website and people can chat to each other about the book and possible endings via a global online forum. University of Buckingham Lecturer Peter Orford, who is behind the internet Dickens’ murder mystery survey, said: “People are asking each other – where’s the body? Because it’s unfinished the book sparks debate.”

There have already been 10,000 hits on the website.

Mr Orford added: “The silent majority can now express their views. It’s just been the voluble minority up to now – a core group of enthusiasts. Because of this many people have shied away from the discussion because it’s seen as frivolous and not academic, but we are breaking the taboo: instead of just looking at this as Murder Mystery it is being talked about as a serious literary work. We are looking for the people’s ending.  People are saying – “can I send you my manuscript?”  They are all sending in their ideas. There’s huge enthusiasm for this.  At the time there was an awful lot of excitement as the story was being published in instalments monthly. Various people wrote endings – one was even supposedly written by a spirit medium in contact with the ghost of Dickens himself.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood has been the subject of six films, a TV adaptation and is still running as a Broadway Musical. After the interval in the show the cast stage whichever endings the audience have voted as their favourites.