Walter Hartright, a young art teacher, meets a mysterious and distressed woman dressed in white. He helps her on her way, but later learns that she has escaped from an asylum. Next day, he travels to Limmeridge House in Cumberland, having been hired as a drawing master on the recommendation of his friend, Pesca, an Italian language master. The Limmeridge household comprises the invalid Frederick Fairlie, and Walter's students: Laura Fairlie, Mr Fairlie's niece, and Marian Halcombe, her devoted half-sister. Walter realises that Laura bears an astonishing resemblance to the woman in white, who is known to the household and whose name is Anne Catherick. The mentally disabled Anne had lived near Limmeridge as a child and was devoted to Laura's mother, who first dressed her in white.
Josephine Bailey and Simon Prebble turn in stellar performances of Collins's classic, commonly regarded as the world's first mystery novel. Late one night, on the way to his new post, art teacher Walter Hartright encounters a ghostly woman dressed all in white, tending to a grave. The next day, he meets his new pupils, Laura Fairlie and her half-sister, Marian, and discovers that the sisters have mysterious ties to the woman in white. For a story told by a sequence of first-person narrators, Bailey and Prebble provide well-paced, alternating readings: Prebble's Hartright is steady, even-keeled, and sensitive; his Marian is bright and clear and blunt. Bailey's Laura is equally well rendered: kind and young, sad and sweet. The voices both narrators provide the host of other characters including the hot-tempered Sir Percival Glyde and the devious Count Fosco are attended with equal imagination and skill. A must-listen for mystery lovers.