I think I have mentioned a few times that Wilkie Collins is one of my favourite authors so I was keen to read this book. It is the story of Rosamond Frankland and her blind husband Lenny, and the secret hidden in their house Porthgenna Tower by Sarah Leeson, a previous servant who worked there. Rosamond and Lenny are determined to discover the secret but are not prepared for the impact on their lives that its discovery causes.

There are some interesting characters in the book; Sarah Leeson’s Uncle Joseph is quite a comedic character who is also devoted to helping Sarah and is a very well-meaning man, if a little simple. The steward of Porthgenna Tower, Mr Munder, is also a character to make the reader smile, as is Mr Phippen and his obsession with his ailments. Andrew Treverton is Rosamond’s bad-tempered and selfish and reclusive uncle, and he and his servant Shrowl provide a contrast to the generosity and selflessness and happiness displayed by Rosamond and her husband. Rosamond and Lenny Frankland are enjoyable characters to read about and I liked them. Rosamond is quite a determined woman, she is friendly and generous to her servants and very caring to her blind husband helping and encouraging him while also ensuring he maintains his independence and spirit and pride. I was initially intrigued as to why Collins had made Lenny blind – I can see that when the secret is discovered Lenny’s blindness prevents him from knowing the content of this secret and Rosamond faces a brief moral dilemma of whether to conceal this from him or to reveal it and obviously this dilemma would not be possible if Lenny could see, and Lenny’s blindness also contributes to the reader’s understanding of Rosamond’s strong and generous character. I was also interested to find out that Collins’ often had characters with disabilities in his books, so Lenny’s blindness fits in with this.

It is a great read, as are all Wilkie Collins’ books, in my opinion. It isn’t as gripping a novel as Moonstone or Woman In White, but the book develops the reader’s curiosity and suspense beautifully and keeps you guessing as to what the secret could be and whether it will be discovered. The book also leaves the reader in some uncertainty, until the end of the book, as to whether Sarah Leeson’s motives are good or bad. There is lots of Gothic atmosphere in the book; dusty forgotten rooms in an stunning stately home, locked drawers, people not being who they seem to be, people haunted by past tragedies and secrets, the eking out of discoveries – all adding up to a very enjoyable read.

A mystery of unrelenting suspense and penetrating characterization, The Dead Secret explores the relationship between a fallen woman, her illegitimate daughter, and buried secrets in a superb blend of romance and Gothic drama. Reprinted here in the only critical edition available, is the text of the first edition, including Collins's preface and revisions. A superb introduction relates the text to Collins's love of the theatre, and previous and subsequent works.
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