Wilkie Collins was the first great detective novelist. His dark and complex mysteries influenced the work of other writers, such as Anthony Trollope and Charles Dickens, with whom he developed a close personal friendship. Swinburne found his work worthy of serious criticism, and T. S. Eliot credits him even more than Poe with the invention of the modern detective novel and the popular thriller. Before such works as The Woman in White, The Moonstone, Armadale, and No Name, Collins demonstrates the full range of his talents for intricate plot and dramatic suspense in The Dead Secret, one of his earliest novels.
Like much of Collins’s work, The Dead Secret explores the consequences of a single, hidden act. The Cornish mansion Porthgenna harbors the secret of such an act, one that has ruined the life of the servant girl Sarah Leeson. This same secret lies hidden for fifteen years until the heiress to Porthgenna, Rosamund Treverton, returns and exposes it. Her detective work may reveal the truth, but her revelation of a long-forgotten crime could mean disaster for her and the entire estate. Wilkie Collins’s brilliant characters, suspenseful plots, and piercing look into Victorian-era society are on full display in The Dead Secret.
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