The first modern detective story, The Woman in White is a thrilling mystery that continues to shock even today. Debuting the archetypical elements of the genre, including mysterious apparitions, illegitimacy, mistaken identities, unreliable narrators, drugs, and crimes of passion, this intricate novel presents a thrilling quest for the truth and love. This Penguin Hardcover classic features cover art of light blue birds over a dark navy blue cloth cover.
The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.
Wilkie Collins' classic is considered the very first English detective novel. Given a large diamond on her 18th birthday, it sets off a string of bad luck for Rachel Verrinder. Stolen that very night, suspicion falls on a number of people-until a gifted amateur discovers what the local constables could not. 438 pages, softcover.
T. S. Eliot famously described The Moonstone as the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels, but as Sandra Kemp discusses in her Introduction, it offers many other facets, which reveal Collins's sensibilities as untypical of his era. His women and servants--like the luckless Rosanna--are trated as individuals capable of anger and passion. He unmasks a restrictive society in his depiction of sexual and imperial domination. Finally through his manipulation of the narrative itself, facts, identities and memory become question marks. With constantly shifting perspectives, the marvellously intricate mystery of the Moonstone unfolds.
The Moonstone was published in 1868 and concerns a huge yellow diamond that was once stolen from an Indian shrine. Rachel Verrinder receives the stone as a gift and does not realize that it has been passed on to her as a sinister form of revenge by John Herncastle who acquired the moonstone by means of murder and theft. The jewel seems to bring bad luck to all who possess it. The stone then ends up disappearing on the same night it was acquired! The plot thickens as the story goes on to unravel the mystery and unveil the culprit.
More by Wilkie Collins
By the time The Law and the Lady appeared in 1875, The Woman in White and The Moonstone had already established Collins as the leading practitioner of "sensation fiction". The Law and the Lady builds on this tradition by introducing one of English literature's earliest women detectives, Valeria Woodville, who investigates the murder of her husband's first wife, in the attempt to prove him guiltless. Rich in plot and characters, including the extraordinary "man machine" Miserrimus Dexter and his female cousin "Ariel", the novel exposes the repression of Victorian domestic life and marriage. "The spectacle of a mental breakdown...provides the best suspense of the novel," writes David Skilton. "After Freud and R.D. Laing modern readers assume they know the answer, are fascinated to witness the way in which the nineteenth century will solve a twentieth century problem."
The Athenaeum reviewer of Armadale (1866) was only one of the contemporary critics horrified by Lydia Gwilt, the bigamist, husband-poisoner and laudanum addict whose intrigues spur the plot of this most sensational of Victorian 'sensation novels'. When Miss Gwilt flings herself from the first-class deck of a Thames steamer, her attempted suicide sets off events that lead to Allan Armadale inheriting Thorpe-Ambrose in Norfolk, romantic rivalries, espionage, counter-espionage and greedy plans for murder. Wilkie Collins drew upon popular newspaper headlines and new technology - particularly the penny post and the telegraph - to lend extra pace and veracity to his brilliantly elaborate and gripping melodrama. T. S. Eliot regarded Armadale as being, after The Woman in White and The Moonstone, 'the best of Collins's romances'. Modern readers will find the flame-haired Lydia Gwilt refreshingly, if alarmingly, different from the general run of heroines in Victorian fiction.
Wilkie Collin's investigation of illegitmacy and 'the woman question' in No Name (1862) compels with a wholly different order of suspense from that of The Woman in White or The Moonstone. For its family secret - the Vanstone daughters' illegitmacy, their consequent disinheritance and fall from social grace - is revealed early on, and as Magdalen Vanstone struggles to reclaim her idenity, the plot uncovers many a moral, social and legal skeleton in the cupboards of Victorian society. Mercurial and unscrupulous, Magdalen is Wilkie Collin's most exhilarating heroine, one of the rare subversives in Victorian fiction and a woman dazzlingly verasatile in her powers of self-transformation. Through her, with great comic vigour, No Name exposes how social identity is constructed, and how it can be dismantled, buried, borrowed and invented.
eBooks, Audio,and Downloads
The Moonstone, Unabridged Audiobook on CD with eBookWilkie CollinsTantor Media Inc. / 2010 / Compact disc$35.99 Retail:
$39.99Save 10% ($4.00)