The book ends, have no fear the twists won’t be shared, using a very clever device. The Countess writes a play – the Haunted Hotel – and it is through that we learn, or perhaps learn, the truth of what went on in the palace.
All of the necessary characters draw close to the hotel so the ending can be complete but the reader is let in on the full hand of cards when most of the characters are not. In that respect it is a satisfying end.
If you were looking to find fault, and in many ways it is perhaps just nit picking, then you might argue that the story is perhaps a bit stretched. The most interesting parts happen in the past and maybe this would have been a different book had the action focused on those moments rather than to tell them briefly towards the end.
Still in terms of the book delivering what you want, which is a creepy chiller to mirror the dark nights then this delivers.
With the death of Lord Montbarry the family move on and ironically one of them chooses to invest some money in a hotel which is being built in the old Venetian palace where the Lord died.
The brother who has invested is the first to arrive and is put in the room where his brother died and has a couple of sleepless nights and loses his appetite. The next to try the room is the dead man’s sister who also has a strange experience dreaming terrible dreams of her dead brother. She also leaves in a hurry.
That leaves the third brother to arrive who is driven away by a death stench and finally the widow arrives to have a showdown with the ghiost of her dead husband and the fiance.
Who will see the ghost and how will it end? Collins has you guessing.
The Haunted Hotel – post I
This time of year is often associated with ghost stories. The most well known if of course A Christmas Carol with the ghosts of Marley and the various tenses of Christmas visiting Scrooge. But there are other collections of spooky stories and books that seem to chime in with the dark nights and the cold.
It is perhaps no surprise that as a result the BBC has chosen to dramatise the Turn of the Screw as one of its big Christmas dramas.
But the book chosen from my shelf has been The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins. The book manages to have a refreshing style to it despite being penned in the 1880s and you are dragged into the mystery in a relatively short number of pages.
A countess, who is both described as wicked or in terms of being a victim of gossip marries a Lord who has thrown over his former fiancé for the mysterious and hated woman. But the Countess herself feels threatened by the former fiancé and even after her husband dies on a trip to Venice she still seems to believe that it is her life that is under threat.
Collins leaves the reader struggling to develop any serious sympathy for the Countess and as you suspect her brother Baron Rivar for being involved in murder it becomes harder still to come down on the side of anyone other than the former fiancé.