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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Woman in White

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins, Matthew Sweet Have you ever been interested to read a Victorian era "classic" but never got around to it because you are concerned that you may not be able to relate? This is the book for you.

If they had airports in the Victorian era this book would be a common sight. I mean this in a complimentary way, not equating Wilkie Collins with modern day blockbusting purveyors of crap like Stephenie Meyer or Dan Brown. This is an edge of the seat thriller that will soon have you forgetting that you reading something written over a century ago. The Woman in White is one of the earliest works of detective fiction and predates Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes by decades.

The Woman in White is not actually about the titular lady with her predilection for colorless attires, though she plays a significant part. The story is about two sisters (stop rolling your eyes back there! this is cool!) one beautiful, kind and vulnerable (OK, she is a bit lame) and the other not so pretty but tough as nails and sharp as a tack. Laura Fairlie (the pretty one) with her excessive niceness is ripe for exploitation and the dastardly handsome Sir Percival Glyde (to whom she is pledged) does not hesitate to do so at the first opportunity. To make matters worse he is aided and abetted by a smooth talking ingenious villain Count Fosco. At this point special mention must be made for two favorite characters from the opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Count Fosco must be one of the most formidable villains in literature, but what make him particularly interesting is his charm, humor, eccentricity and moments of goodness. Fortunately Laura has her own WMD in her half-sister Marian Halcombe, a totally badass Victorian lady who centuries later probably reincarnated as Ellen Ripley. Marian's strong character and resolution really shines through, she comes across as much more heroic than the novel's hero, Walter Hartright who is rather bland and almost useless.

Wilkie Collins has performed an amazing feat of character development in this book, Marian Halcombe and Count Fosco are so vivid they practically jump out of the book at you, you may want to stand well back while reading the book as a precaution. The plot twists and turns in unexpected manners and the final resolution is deeply satisfying. No lover of mystery novels should miss this classic. Beautifully written with very strong characterization, the Woman in White is more than a match to any modern day thriller.

Read this and the equally fabulous The Moonstone by the same author then brag about it to everybody until they start throwing things at you.