Wilkie Collins is one of my all-time favourite authors, his books are always ones that I fly through as I can’t put them down. They are brilliantly plotted and full of suspense and tension, and yet have so much more depth to them than just these factors as they are always extremely involved and detailed. I enjoy modern thrillers, yet Wilkie Collins always tops my list – his subtlety of plot, detailed descriptions and gradual building up of tension leave me on the edge of my seat far more than modern thrillers that seem to frequently use blood and guts and dramatic overblown plots to achieve their aim; he wins every time, in my opinion! And this book is definitely not a disappointment.

Magdalen and Norah Vanstone are happy girls with a privileged life, but when they become orphans they learn their parents were never actually married therefore they are now disinherited and shunned as illegitimate, changing from rich ladies with admirers to being poor and friendless. The sisters deal with this hardship in different ways; Norah finds work as a governess and slowly regains people’s love and respect, however Magdalen becomes consumed with bitterness about the unfairness of their situation and is determined to regain their inheritance by whatever means possible.

Magdalen is quite a complex character, she is extremely self-willed and is prepared to suffer quite considerably in order to gain her final end. She is very focused and can only see one path, I feel she goes beyond determined and becomes obsessed. She wishes to cause no-one any pain, yet inevitably does cause pain to all those who care about her, due to her single-minded obsession and the risks she takes.

My favourite character in the book however, and one that I think rates as one of my all-time most memorable, is the fantastic Captain Wragge – surely one of the wittiest, most audacious and daring, amusing and cleverest characters in literature. At first he is introduced as a suspicious person likely to harm the Vanstones and, as we learn he is a swindler and has no morals about conning people, this first assumption is not inaccurate. However he works with Magdalen to help her gain her objective, and he is so daring and determined and quick-witted that he is definitely someone you would want on your side rather than against you. He has some fantastic lines, and his presence on the page just lit it up for me!

His main adversary is another brilliant character, Mrs Lecount. She, like Wragge, is extremely intelligent and manipulative and uses these skills, plus the slight lack of moral fibre, to achieve her own ends. Their battle, fought using supreme quickness of minds, daring, and adaptability, as well as a great deal of scheming and plotting and second guessing their adversary’s next actions, makes for fantastic reading and their passages are the highlight of the book for me.

There are also plenty of gothic, dark, suspense-filled events in large halls, old buildings, dark passageways and cold rooms where the reader is never sure who is just around the corner waiting to jump out, therefore ensuring each page is turned quicker and quicker.

Although No Name is not as well known as The Woman In White and Moonstone, it is just as enjoyable as those other books, and just as clever and thrilling.

No Name (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)

By (author): Wilkie Collins

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