I have to thank JaneGS and The Classics Circuit for encouraging me to read Wilkie Collins because I don’t think I would ever have got around to him otherwise. I’m on my third one of his now, (The Woman in White) but I read The Haunted Hotel over the Christmas holidays. Although I enjoyed it I was quite happy that it was a really short one, as I have so much of a backlog now.
Lord Montbarry has jilted his fiancee Agnes and married Countess Narona instead. As Agnes is well loved by everyone, they all turn against Lord Montbarry, however it seems to me that he was never a popular person. Even his brothers didn’t seem to get on with him, so the mystery to me is why Agnes was so in love with Montbarry in the first place? But such is life, I suppose.
Things don’t go well for the newly weds from the beginning and Lord Montbarry becomes very stingy with money. In an effort to save on hotel bills he rents a dilapidated, damp palace in Venice and his new wife’s ‘brother’ joins them there. The servants who have been brought from England are appalled at the behaviour of their mistress with her so-called brother and decide to leave for home as soon as they can.
When Lord Montbarry’s family in England hear that he has died they aren’t too surprised at first but then they discover that two insurance policies have been taken out on him and their suspicions are raised.
What had really happened to Lord Montbarry? Well I’m going no further so as not to spoil it for anyone.
I would recommend this one as an introduction to Wilkie Collins as it is a lot less wordy than some of his others. I can only suppose that at the time he wrote it he wasn’t being paid by the word – as so many authors were – and that was always a great incentive for them to pad things out. Either that or the opium that he had become addicted to by this time had exhausted him so much that he didn’t have the energy or the inclination to make it longer.