The first book I read by Wilkie Collins was The Moonstone, considered to be one of the first detective stories in the English language. It was written in 1868. I really loved it; the way it was written and the story. To my surprise, The Woman in White was written earlier, already in 1859. By this time Collins had become friends with Charles Dickens and this novel, as most of his other novels, were serialised before they were printed. That is, of course, why it is such a long book. By the time I had read about one third, I could not possibly imagine what was going to take place in the next two thirds of the book. Well, I was about to see.
The more I got into the book, the more difficult it was to put down. I really loved it. The story absolutely fascinated me, and although it is one of those ’slow’ books where nothing much seem to happen, there is a continuous development of the story, in its own slow pace.
It is built up by extracts of most, but not all, of the persons involved in the mystery. It starts with Walter Hartright, when he, one evening on his way home meets the mysterious woman in white. Being a gentleman he helps her to find her way to London. They do a little bit of small talk, and she reveals she was only happy once in her life, when she spent some time in Limmeridge House in Cumberlands. This is the exact place where Walter Hartright is going, in order to teach drawing to two sisters, Marian and Laura, living there.
Once there he tries to find out who the woman in white is, but nobody seems to remember that she has once been there. A certain help is received from Marian, who finds a trace in one of her mother’s old letters. The ’ghost’ of the woman in white, and the secret she says she knows, is hanging over all the events in the novel. Each testimony takes the story a little bit further, until it all is revealed in the end. The story is scattered with exquisitely drawn characters, and it is a treat to follow them, whether you like them or not. They are like the characters ’littering’ an Agatha Christie novel. They are there to build up the story, deepen the mystery and in the end…several culprits to choose from.
A fine mystery indeed. Well written, keeping up the suspense, even take you - or again, at least me - into a fit of thinking and screaming to myself (silently of course); ”No, no, don’t do that! No, don’t go there! No, it is a trap, don’t you see! That is why I think that this will be one of my favourite suspense novels. I loved The Moonstone, and, I think I can say, I probably think this is a little bit better.
This is my first entry for the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt 2016, hosted by My Reader’s Block, Golden Age for mysteries published before 1960. It is related to 'Ghostly Figure'. This novel was published in 1859.