Solving the Mystery of Edwin Drood: Modern Forensic Applications

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final written work of Charles Dickens - Solving the Mystery of Edwin Drood: Modern Forensic Applications introduction. The novel was left unfinished at the time of the author’s death, leaving the readers to speculate on the story’s ending. It begins with a nightmare, an opium dream of John Jasper, at once lay precentor and choirmaster of Cloisterham Cathedral and a secret drug addict. After the dreamer awakes, he hurries back to Cloisterham Cathedral in time for afternoon services. With Jasper’s nightmare as prologue, the action begins. John Jasper thus is met in the very first pages of the book. The principal characters are introduced quickly and the plot develops at a forced march.

Jasper’s nephew, Edwin Drood, was in infancy betrothed by his parents to Rosa Bud. The two are fond of each other, but not in love. Jasper, who teaches Rosa music, is, on the other hand, passionately in love with her. His feelings for Edwin appear to be a mixture of love and of jealousy over Edwin’s tie with Rosa. Jasper appears to plot against Edwin, first stirring up bad blood between him and Neville Landless, a highly-spirited and hot-tempered man, who, with his sister Helena, has come from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to reside in Cloisterham under the care of Canon Crisparkle.

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A prickly man Landless was and with the unknown intentions he had for Ms. Bud, he instantly became Drood’s adversary. Though this was the case, Landless was considered to be a temporary enemy. During a Christmas Eve party hosted by John Jasper’s, Neville finds his antagonism toward Edwin lessening because of Edwin’s own friendliness and disarming openness to Neville. It was then that they realized that they agreed on one fact: that there is something peculiar about Jasper.

Their increasing distrust of Jasper drew the two of them together. Jasper also begins to behave strangely, and among his most unusual actions is a nocturnal expedition he makes with the tombstone mason, Durdles, through the tower and crypt of the Cloisterham Cathedral. Shortly after this, Edwin (having in the meantime, unbeknownst to Jasper, broken off his engagement) disappears without a trace, except for certain jewelry later found by Canon Crisparkle in a weir on a river near Cloisterham.

The balance of the Drood fragment includes an account of the persecution by Jasper of Neville Landless (who has also fallen in love with Rosa) for the “murder” of Drood; the arrival in Cloisterham of one Datchery, who is apparently a detective in disguise and maintains a watch over Jasper’s actions; and the pursuit of Jasper by the Opium Woman, in whose den he dreamed the opium dream that served as the book’s prologue and is to dream another dream, apparently describing a past act of violence. This far the fragment takes us and no farther.

In the story most Drood critics have fastened upon the following “mysteries”: Did John Jasper murder or attempt to murder Edwin Drood? Here are the questions as to the place and manner of the crime and the eventual mode of detection: Was Edwin dead or did he escape? Who was Dick Datchery, the disguised detective? Who was the Opium Woman? In the book it is hinted strongly that Jasper is the murderer, but it is not known whether Dickens had a different version. At the latter end of the existing chapters there appears very abruptly, and with a quite pretentious air of mystery, a character called Datchery.

He appears for the purpose of spying upon Jasper and getting up some case against him. Among the leading exponents of the survival theory are Andrew Lang and R. A. Proctor. A theory came about that Datchery was Drood himself. One possible story is that Jasper, whose obsession for opium is much insisted on in the novel had some sort of hallucination, or other physical seizure as he was committing the crime so that he left it unfinished; and that he had also drugged Drood, so that Drood, when he recovered from the attack, was doubtful about who had been his assailant.

This might really explain, if a little fancifully, his coming back to the town in the character of a detective. He might think it due to his uncle, whom he last remembered in a kind of murderous vision to make an independent investigation as to whether he was really guilty or not. Now it is also possible that Jasper tries to drug Drood and Neville with wine and both feel unusually confused. He may intend to drug Neville and make him kill Drood without remembering it.

Among the critics, J. Cuming Walters and Edmund Wilson concluded that Drood was murdered. Some critics have drawn support for this conclusion from Dickens’s notes for the completed chapters. The notes for an early chapter describing an interview between Drood and Jasper read “. . . murder far off’; those for the chapter describing Jasper’s nighttime expedition through Cloisterham Cathedral include the phrase: “Lay the ground for the manner of the murder to come out at last. Many critics have interpreted the expedition either as a rehearsal of the eventual murder or as providing Jasper the means of obtaining a key to a tomb for the burial of Edwin’s body as well as scouting the cathedral and its precincts as an intended site for the crime and disposition of the body (“Crimes,” 2005). On the assumption that Drood was murdered by Jasper, as far as modern crime investigation is concerned, there are several techniques that may be used to prove or disprove the innocence of Jasper.

First, the body of the victim should be recovered. So, a visit to the intended sites for the crime and the disposition of the body should be done. If the body would be found, this should be autopsied right away. An autopsy is the examination of a body after death, which may also be referred to as a post-mortem. Putting together the autopsy results and some logical reasoning, the following information may be deduced: the cause of death, time since death, the manner of death and some marks of violence if there are any.

If the idea that Drood had been drugged, traces of opium may also be found in his system. With or without the body of the victim, investigation on the “suspected site” should be done. There should be a search for evidence such as the belongings of an individual left on the site, possible weapons used, other materials that may be used, such as drugs for this case and manifestation of violence done such as blood. It is also possible to search for foot or shoe tracks and determine the behavior of those tracks, or if those tracks were recently imprinted or not.

Fingerprint analysis on the site may also be done. Assuming that there is a database for the fingerprints of the citizens in the area, then it is possible to narrow down the suspects to people whose fingerprints would be identified at the site. Gathering all evidences should be careful as to prevent contamination of the samples for analysis. Sampling is the weakest link in the search and analysis for possible evidences.

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