The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice

The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice - Wilkie Collins This book is all about the plot, which Collins deftly builds towards its climax. It's a proper "page-turner", which keeps you wanting to read the next chapter to see what will happen. He also keeps you guessing as to whether the central mystery is of human devising or whether there really is a supernatural agency involved.Where the story is let down is in the use of stock characters and a lack of effective use of its setting.The conventional Gothic characters are used: Villainous Baron; Sinister Continental Lady; Aloof, Emotionless Lord; Wronged English Gentlewoman; and so on. There is little character development, with the best drawn being that of the apparently conflicted Countess Narona: is she really racked with guilt for obscurely guessed crimes? Is she a victim herself? Is she playing a part designed to further enmesh the innocent heroine? The Countess really carries the story and is by far the most interesting person in it.Then there is Venice, or the lack thereof. Having subtitled the story A Mystery of Modern Venice, apart from a couple of mentions of St Mark's Square, canals and gondolas, the setting could have been anywhere. I think Collins really missed an opportunity of building atmosphere: no chases through moonlit canals, no ghostly gondoliers, no introductions into Venetian society, whether high or low.A quick read, and an enjoyable one, but not a masterpiece.