I can't remember when I last read The Mystery of Edwin Drood, but I'm certain that it was before 1997. It was in that year that I passed the age that Dickens had attained when he left our planet, leaving Drood undone.
This time, I read Drood with a sense of Impending Doom. I think it's because Dickens died far too young -- in the prime of his age. Not, however, in the prime of his genius -- although one never knows what he would have produced if he had lived to his allotted three score and ten. The novel struck me as a tired and eneravated performance. Too many of the characters are recycled from the Dickens repertory company, the humor is too strenuous, the clues and the red-herrings too obviously contrived. It's only very near the moment of truncation, when the splendid Mrs. Billicken makes her appearance, that the novel feels inspired in the old Dickens way.
I also read in sadness. When we commit to reading a long, densely plotted novel, we take it for granted that all its mysteries will eventually be resolved. Such is the bargain that the novelist makes with his readers. But this novel is different, because Dickens didn't make it to the end. And so, we read it always tentatively, knowing that its mysteries will remain mysteries forever and ever. So this time, alas, Drood was a memento mori -- and goodness gracious, I already have enough of those.