Is Edwin Dead or Alive?
The overwhelming majority of nineteenth-century responses to the case argued that Edwin must be alive. But were Edwin Drood to be found alive, it would not be the end of the mystery so much as the beginning of a new one: if not dead, where is he? Why has he not come forward before now? Was there an attempt made on his life?
Who tried to kill him?
Some solutionists have argued for a very happy Edwin who blissfully leaves Cloisterham unaware of any danger to his life (such as the BBC’s 2012 television series), but in the majority of cases where theorists have suggested Edwin is alive, they nonetheless believe there to have been an attempt on his life. In such cases the popular suspect for the attempted murder is John Jasper, who leaves Edwin, presumed dead, in a hidden place, most usually the tombs under the cathedral, where Edwin, only stunned, wakes up horrified and fearful for his life, choosing to escape to safety while he decides on the best course of action.
Where is he?
If Edwin is alive and no attempt has been made on his life, then the next assumption is that he must be out of the country for the news of his supposed death not to have reached him, and of all the locations in the world, it is naturally assumed that he had gone ahead to Egypt as he has been planning to. However, if an attempt on his life has been made, we are instead faced with a young man fearful for his life and weary of his would-be murderer. Some argue that the resulting exile is an opportunity for Drood to mature, others that he adopts a disguise with which to keep a close eye on events, either as a clerk to Grewgious (as suggested by Gillian Vase in 1878) or as a friend of Datchery. Others have taken this last point to its ultimate conclusion to argue that Drood is Datchery.
Does he have an accomplice?
How did Edwin survive his murky fate? If he was to be buried in the tombs, then the likely saviour of Edwin is Durdles, who would then be privy to the true state of affairs while the rest of Cloisterham searched for the missing Drood. Others see Datchery’s arrival in Cloisterham as prompted by Drood himself, either in disguise as Datchery, or else sending him in to investigate on his behalf. But the most frequently named accomplice of Drood, if alive, is Hiram Grewgious. The lawyer has already impressed his respectability on young Drood, and the lawyer’s callous lack of concern for John Jasper when he faints in his apartment can only be explained, many argue, by the lawyer’s prior knowledge that Jasper is the murderer, or would-be murderer, of Drood – and the only way he can know this for sure at this early stage is if he had heard it from Edwin himself.
While the “resurrectionists” believe Edwin will return alive, the “undertakers” believe him to be dead; but like their optimistic counterparts, disagreement still rages between this more morbid group over the details – who killed Edwin? How? And where is the body?
Where is the body?
Whoever killed Drood, efforts have clearly been taken to throw others off the scent, by taking his watch and shirtpin and disposing of them in the river. Jasper’s late-night excursion to the tombs have suggested to many that Drood has been deposited in the Sapsea tomb, or even in the Drood tomb nearby. Others have argued that Drood is being decomposed in a pit of quicklime to ensure no-one can identify the body, while others still have suggested this is a double-bluff, and that Edwin is deposited in Sapsea’s wife’s tomb while the unfortunate Mrs Sapsea herself is being decomposed, in order that should anyone find her remains during the search, they will recognise them as female and not connect them to the Drood mystery. While the details vary, the most prevalent view is that Drood is somewhere on the cathedral grounds, a notable exception being a 1914 silent film by Tom Teriss in which Drood is left for dead in the water instead.