My dad has every single version of "A Christmas Carol" movie that has ever been made. Every Christmas, we pile onto the couch and watch at least three of them (including the best one of them all - "A Muppet Christmas Carol"). Needless to say, I was raised with a healthy love of all things Charles Dickens.
This book was right up my alley. It is a fictionalized account of the last five years of Dickens's life, beginning with the real-life near-fatal train accident he was involved in that haunted Dickens for the remainder of his life, and the character he "invented" (or did he?) named Edwin Drood - an Egyptian not-quite-human spectre.
The narrator of this perfectly Gothic novel is none other than Dickens's friend (and not-so-secret frienemy) Wilkie Collins, the famous author of "The Woman in White" and "Moonstone".
From the beginning, Collins is deeply unlikable - pretentious, boorish, and jealous of everything Dickens has achieved. He's also a serious opium addict, and you find yourself wondering "...did that actually happen, or is he on a drug trip right now?" But oh, he's so, so completely devious and nasty that you are sucked into his logic. You sort of root for him while at the same time wishing someone would just punch him in his pudgy face. I have no idea if the actual Wilkie Collins was such a documented creep, but I think I'll always think of him with a little bit of fond bitterness now.
The book is long (about 800 pages), but so worth the read. I completely got lost in the mystery (I won't ruin it for you guys). It makes me want to go read "Great Expectations" again, since I feel like I sort of personally know Charles Dickens now. We're tight.
Although I'm pretty sure Charles Dickens would never write the above sentence. Ever.