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The Dead Secret (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – July 22, 1999

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From the Publisher

"I want something I can "read" read." That's a sentiment familiar to most readers, expressive of a desire for a thumping good tale, for stirringly compelling storytelling. The immensely popular Victorian novelist Wilkie Collins has long been a favorite with those who find themselves in the mood to "read" read. Originally published in 1857, "The Dead Secret," with its powerful blend of sensational drama and gripping psychological portraiture, shows Collins to be a master storyteller indeed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ira B. Nadel is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (July 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192838415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192838414
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,559,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Imperator Furiosa VINE VOICE on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the last of what critics refer to as Collins's "apprentice novels", meaning that this is the last novel he wrote before he achieved fame with _The Woman in White_. Many of the themes Collins used in _The Woman in White_ seem to have been tested here, most notably the question of the identity of a mysterious woman, but the themes of legitimacy and secrecy play important parts as well. Collins also has a non-British character with a prominent part in this novel, but the German Uncle Joseph is as endearing as the Italian Count Fosco is sinister. Andrew Treverton and his servant, Shrowl, provide comic relief in a manner similar to Frederick Fairlie -- they exhibit the type of antisocial behavior that is irritating in real life, but is somehow rendered amusing in print.
Unlike _The Woman in White_ or _The Moonstone_, there are no real villains in this novel. There are no intrigues to gain fortunes. There is, however, a ghost. Or is there? The mystery of this novel is of the commonplace variety; it is a question of a domestic secret rather than that of a stolen Indian diamond or a woman's sanity. Despite all of this, the novel is still a page turner. Even after the story became a bit predictable, I couldn't put the book down until I knew for sure what happened to Rosamond Frankland and Sarah Leeson.
As usual, Collins has assembled an interesting bunch of characters: the sea captain, the actress, the misanthrope, the mysterious maid, and the young married couple. I found Sarah Leeson to be at once the most interesting and the most sympathetic character. This woman has obviously had a tragic past, a past which torments her, and it is only at the novel's close that Collins reveals what happened to destroy her happiness.
All-in-all, this is a charming, fast-paced read that would be perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By lazza on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wilkie Collins has written some brilliant crime/mystery novels during his career, most notably The Woman in White / No Name / The Moonstone. His earlier works are almost unknown nowadays. But such obscurity is unwarrented, at least in the case of The Dead Secret.
The Dead Secret tells a simple story of a mystery surrounding an untold secret of a dying wealthy woman. This woman's secret is shared only with her servant. Despite the woman's dying wish, the servant does not divulge the secret ... with unpleasent results. Eventually the secret is revealed and all is understood.
The novel works well mostly because it is fast paced, and it has all the richness of a Collins novel (ie, it is well-written). No, it isn't as clever or suspenseful as Collins's later works. But Wilkie Collins fans should place The Dead Secret on their 'must read' list.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on March 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Mrs Treverton, who is not expected to live through the night, summons her lady's maid, Sarah Leeson, to her side. Their hushed conversation reveals that, many years ago, Sarah and Mrs Treverton conspired together to cover up a devastating family secret. With her death fast approaching, Mrs Treverton demands the expiation of that guilt and attempts to force Sarah to reveal the details of the secret to her husband by giving him the hand-written confession which they prepare and sign together that night. While the timid, brow-beaten Sarah is unable to muster the mental courage to destroy the note, she somehow pulls her thoughts together and finds the strength to hide the note in a long abandoned room in Porthgenna mansion in order to keep the secret hidden from her master. When she sees the stricken Captain Treverton weeping, mourning his wife's death by hugging their infant daughter, Rosamond, and asking the baby for her comfort in dealing with his grief, Sarah realizes that the hypocrisy necessary to stay at Porthgenna mansion while the note was hidden there is beyond her and she flees into the night!

The story resumes some fifteen years later as an adult Rosamond, newly married to her loving squire, Leonard Frankland, inherits Porthgenna mansion and they make plans to implement a program of renovations which will restore the estate to its former glory. A series of coincidences result in Sarah encountering Rosamond and coming to the horrifying realization that the secret is in imminent danger of being brought to light! At that point, the messy stuff hits the fan and the balance of this wonderful classic novel is spent unearthing the sordid details of the secret and its emotional and practical impact on each of the characters that Collins has so lovingly and skillfully constructed.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Catherine S. Vodrey on March 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Wilkie Collins wrote "The Dead Secret" early in his career as a novelist, and his inexperience shows here--but the Collins aficionado will welcome the opportunity to see how his gifts first manifest themselves in this relatively simple story. He gathers together all the usual suspects: a wealthy family, an old house, a charming child, and the member of the house staff who harbors the secret in question. While Collins falls short in his effort to sketch an unrequited yearning (I can't go into more detail if you haven't read the book), he does a beautiful job of portraying the subtle class differences and behaviors in this particular house.
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