“The Mystery of Charles Dickens: a Tale of Mesmerism and Murder” by John Paulits

Published by MX Publishing – Reviewed by Margaret Mandeno.

This is, from the opening chapter to the last, a story filled with a highly satisfying mixture of tension and intrigue. The author deftly portrays the individuality of his characters and their various social backgrounds in language which gives a sense of authenticity to his tale. From the magnificence of a Genoese palace to the ghastly sordidness of an opium den, Paulits takes his readers across a social gulf separating the ultimate in privilege to the depths of wretchedness. While staying in Genoa, tension builds between Dickens and his wife Catherine as he doggedly pursues his goal of freeing Augusta, the beautiful young wife of Emile de la Rue, from her facial spasms and terrifying dreams. Using his skill in mesmerism, Dickens begins to treat Augusta, and comes to realise that she retains some terrible secret from long ago, buried deep within her mind. Dickens eventually extracts the reason for her nightmarish dreams but realises that he cannot reveal the truth of what he has discovered. He and his family return to England. Over a period of time letters from the de la Rues gradually fade away. Eventually Dickens hears of Augusta’s death, an event which inspires him a few years later to reshape the ending of his final novel. Tension increases dramatically in Dickens’s last weeks. Although his health is deteriorating rapidly, he is determined to reveal the culprit responsible for Augusta’s recurrent nightmares in the last issue of his serialised novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. But the man he is going to unmask now realises what Dickens plans to do. He is equally determined to prevent this happening. It becomes a race against time for both of them. The Mystery of Charles Dickens allows readers to witness Dickens himself ultimately becoming involved in a life and death situation – something that modern day Dickensians will be keen to follow up! 

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