Stephen Jarvis's Death and Mr. Pickwick is not quite like any other novel I've ever read. I'll explain why in a moment.
First, I need to tell you something about the characters and plot. The novel gives a fictionalized account of the life of Robert Seymour, the first illustrator of The Pickwick Papers. Written in a rambling and episodic style, like Pickwick itself, Jarvis's book thoroughly examines not just Seymour's life, but also the myriad of influences on his life and work -- the world he grew up in, the artists whose work he saw and the writers whose work inspired his own art, his employers and relatives and friends. In particularly minute detail, he recounts everything in Seymour's life and work (for instance, a habit of drawing plump men, an interest in fishing, a meeting with a particularly gullible person) that might have any relation to anything in Pickwick.
There's a reason for this. Jarvis is trying to make the case that Pickwick really belongs to Seymour and not to Dickens. He gives us long passages with Seymour imagining the story and carefully plotting each detail of his pictures for it -- the fact that an author will be needed to provide words to go with the illustrations is almost an afterthought. And once that author is found -- 24-year-old Charles Dickens, fresh off the success of Sketches by Boz -- he will spoil everything for Seymour.