Friday, September 18, 2015

Mount TBR #35

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2015. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

The Dead Secret – Wilkie Collins

Collins wrote this mystery between the readable and Hide & Seek and his best novel The Woman in White. The Dead Secret is well-written enough but padding with irrelevant scenes hinders the pace of the story. Another problem is the plot. It’s absurd.

Just when the reader is wondering whether to bail, however, Collins will introduce a bit player or set piece that is too appealing to turn one’s back on. Mr. Phippin, wonderful comic relief, plays the martyr to dyspepsia. The housekeeper Mrs. Pentreath and steward Mr. Munder of the creepy house are very well drawn indeed. Their interview with Uncle Joseph gives Collins a chance to skewer pomposity and respectability (too bad Uncle lets us down by failiing to be consistently fun). Finally, Andrew Treverton and his rotten companion Shrowl call to mind sleazy characters in Oliver Twist. In Hide & Seek, Collins puts a woman who is deaf at center-stage, but the use of a blind character in this one is not nearly as inventive or convincing.

So, loyal readers, read it for the characters, if plot is not so important to you. Another reason to read it is to sharpen the critical sense. Just where does Collins’ handling of the secret go awry? We’re able to guess the secret fairly early on so the element of surprise rather fades away.

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