The full title of this novella by Wilkie Collins, that is in the public domain, is The Haunted Hotel: A Story of Modern Venice. And it is because part of this novella is set in Venice circa 1870 that makes it so interesting to Italophiles. The contemporary descriptions of the city make fascinating reading for anyone who has been to the city, or dreams of going there.
The novella is an entertaining, and at times chilling, story of two women haunted by their past with a man who died under mysterious circumstances in a Venice palace. One woman is the man’s widow. The other woman is the man’s jilted fiancée. The widow was described at the time of publication as a revelation to people, because never had they read of such evil in a woman before. A woman as the antagonist was unique.
It was riveting, fast paced and mysterious: my ideal novel. The Haunted Hotel is a mystery, but the plot is simple and easy to understand. It was so easy to get stuck into the book. I promise you, you won’t be able to put the book down after the first chapter. It is that absorbing. And after you’ve finished the book, the story will haunt you because it’s such a beautiful, riveting story.
There is nothing like Victorian horror to put me in shivers. Wilkie Collins was one of the best authors in this genre. I discovered him first when I read the more well-know The Woman in White. This book, like many from his time, gets off to a bit of a slow start in that so much work is done to establish “mood”. At the same time, there is a startling and intriguing personality right from the beginning who doesn’t seem to make sense – and I found myself wanting to know what was going on behind all of that.
I really enjoyed this novel. It’s one of my favourites now. I’ve tried reading Collin’s other novels but none have been as successful as The Haunted Hotel.
I highly recommend this novel to anyone who is in want of a simple, yet superbly written classic mystery.