Turning beloved authors into characters can be an awful lot of fun. We already feel as though we know them through their work, so it’s rather like stepping into the continuing adventures of a familiar friend. Lewis Buzbee’s The Haunting of Charles Dickens, draws upon an energetic side of the great writer, drawing on his perspicacious reporter’s background and broad imagination. In Buzbee’s mystery, Dickens is led into the seedy underground London crime world as a chance encounter with a mysterious spirit sets him on the path of his young friend Meg Pickel’s missing brother.
Buzbee demonstrates a talent for inventing Dickensian characters. Along their way, Meg and Dickens meet the wine shop workers Micawber and Muckle, the tiny but feisty barkeeper Jenny Wren, and a gang as off-putting as Wackford Squeers or Mr. Bumble. Contrasted against Meg’s close and loving family, which welcomes Dickens in warmly, we are presented with an entirely spectrum of London life.
But Buzbee does not borrow well from Dickens solely in the characters; he too takes as his subject those mistreated by life, using his story to highlight the conflict between those who suffer and those who cause their suffering. Meg’s journey through London becomes a chance for Dickens to open her eyes to the plight of those around her and extend their mission to rescue more than just a missing brother.