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Wilkie Collins was born on 8 January 1824 and died on 23 September 1889. In those 65 years he wrote 27 novels, more than 50 short stories, at least 15 plays, and more than 100 non-fiction pieces. A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens's bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has for fifty years. Almost all his books are in print, he is studied widely, and new film and television versions of some of his books have been made. Nevertheless, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.
The Woman in White (1859-60) is the first and greatest 'Sensation Novel'. Walter Hartright's mysterious midnight encounter with the woman in white draws him into a vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue. The novel is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction - Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant 'Napoleon of Crime'.A masterwork of intricate construction, The Woman in White sets new standards of suspense and excitement, and achieved sales which topped even those of Dickens, Collins's friend and mentor.
A fabulous diamond becomes Rachel Verinder's dangerous inheritance. Outside her house watch the Hindu priests who have waited many years to reclaim their looted talisman. When the Moonstone disappears, the case looks simple, but no-one is what they seem, and nothing can be taken for granted.
Who, in the name of wonder, had taken the Moonstone out of Miss Rachel's drawer? A celebrated Indian yellow diamond is first stolen from India, then vanishes from a Yorkshire country house. Who took it? And where is it now? A dramatist as well as a novelist, Wilkie Collins gives to each of his narratorsa household servant, a detective, a lawyer, a cloth-eared Evangelical, a dying medical manvibrant identities as they separately tell the part of the story that concerns themselves. One of the great triumphs of nineteenth-century sensation fiction, The Moonstone tells of a mystery that for page after page becomes more, not less inexplicable. Collins's novel of addictions is itself addictive, moving through a sequence of startling revelations towards the final disclosure of the truth. Entranced with double lives, with men and women who only know part of the story, Collins weaves their narratives into a web of suspense. The Moonstone is a text that grows imaginatively out of the secrets that the unconventional Collins was obliged to keep as he wrote the novel.
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