Benny R. Reece: Mystery of Edwin Drood Solved

Reviewed by Pete Orford, Chief Investigator for The Drood Inquiry

My favourite example of this way of seeing the novel [using Dickens’ death as the point from which to read the text] is Benny R. Reece’s utterly mad book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Solved (1989). It argues that Dickens wrote the book as a sort of inverted roman a clef, so that anyone familiar with Greek mythology could arrive at the ending he would never live to write.

Edwin Drood, he claims, is a puzzle designed by an author who had no intention of completing it (and which can therefore be seen as already finished), made to be deciphered by a reader who could identify the clues provided. Based on the assumption that Dickens had patterned his plot on Greek mythology, Reece makes Dickens’ text adopt the complicated family and intrigue patterns of the Olympic pantheon, making it necessary to conclude that Helena (as Artemis) killed Drood (as Orion) because he tried to rape her. Still according to this logic, Honeythunder (Zeus), Tartar (Poseidon) and Durdles (Pluto) are brothers; and Rosa (Eos) is romantically involved with Datchery, Drood, Grewgious and Joe (the omnibus driver), in what Reece accurately describes as a “frankly lewd” romantic subplot (Reece 1989:46). I, for one, never suspected Dickens had it in him.