This novel explores the relationship between a fallen woman, her illegitimate daughter, and secrets, in a blend of romance and Gothic drama. It anticipates the themes of Collins' next novel, "The Woman in White" in its treatment of mental illness, disguise and deception, and lost identity.
`"Oh, my God! to think of that kind-hearted, lovely young woman, who brings happiness with her wherever she goes, bringing terror to me! Terror when her pitying eyes look at me; terror when her kind voice speaks to me; terror when her tender hand touches mind!" ' Porthgenna Tower on the remote western Cornish coast. Moments before her death, Mrs Treverton dictates a secret to her maid, never to be passed to her husband as she had instructed. Fifteen years later, when Mrs Treverton's daughter, Rosamond, returns to Porthgenna with her blind husband, Leonard, she is intrigued by the strange and seemingly disturbed Mrs Jazeph's warning not to enter the Myrtle Room in the ruined north wing. Strong-minded and ingenious, Rosamond's determined detective work uncovers shocking and unsettling truths beyond all expectation. A mystery of unrelenting suspense and psychologically penetrating characters, "The Dead Secret" explores the relationship between a fallen woman, her illegitimate daughter, and buried secrets in a blend of romance and Gothic drama. Wilkie Collins's fifth novel, "The Dead Secret" anticipates the themes of his next novel, "The Woman in White" in its treatment of mental illness, disguise and deception, and the dispossession of lost identity. Yet a series of comic figures offsets the tension, from the dyspeptic Mr Phippen to the perpetually smiling governess, Miss Sturch. Displaying the talent and energy which made Collins the most popular novelist of the 1860s, the novel represents a crucial phase in Collins's rise as a mystery writer, and was his first full-length novel written specifically for serialization.
Ira B. Nadel is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
Used - Very Good
Oxford University Press
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