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The Dark Clue Hardcover – Nov 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First American Edition edition (Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087113831X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871138316
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.9 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,289,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

The Dark Clue by James Wilson takes us into Victorian England in all its staggering extremes; of poverty and wealth, of slums and stately homes, of public morality and private vice in an unforgettable tale of suspense. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

James Wilson has written plays, TV documentaries (including the award-winning Savagery and the American Indian for the BBC) and a critically-acclaimed history of Native Americans, The Earth Shall Weep. His three previous novels were The Dark Clue, The Bastard Boy and, most recently, The Woman in the Picture, described by Kate Saunders in The Times as 'a multi-layered, deeply absorbing and entertaining novel'. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Al plus boots on 27 May 2002
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. James Wilson has managed cleverly to interweave seamlessy the story of both real (JMW Turner) and imagianary characters. The book moves on at a cracking pace, and gives us an insight into Turners troubled genius, but also a feeling for life in that period. As the mystery/enigma that was Turner is unravelled the tensions increase, and so too the fascination. I just could not put this book down.
It also left me wanting more though. To discover more about Turner, and his work in particular..
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By "the_wicked_lady" on 11 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
"Read 50 pages and you will be gripped," promises the endorsement from Allan Massie on the front cover of The Dark Clue. A cautious approval, which provokes the immediate thought: "That's a lot of pages to get through without being gripped." And after I'd read the required 50 pages, I checked my level of gripped-ness and thought "Nope, nothing yet."
Then 100 pages. Still nothing. 150 pages - "Hey, something's bound to happen soon!" But no. The novel is divided into three books and it was only really in the last one that the narrative suddenly put its ears back, bucked and bolted off into hectic melodrama.
This recreation of the Victorian sensation genre tracks the protagonist's decline from Pooterish second-rate artist to obsessed would-be biographer of Turner, his descent into madness resulting from his attempts not just to emulate, but to become, his subject. The early parts of the book adhere to a pattern: one of the two main characters arranges to visit someone who knew Turner, travels to meet them, describes in great detail how they are admitted to the person's house, describes in even greater detail what the room is like, interviews them and leaves, having discovered that Turner was... a bit odd.
I was impressed by the style of writing, which is characterised by a careful choice of words and an eye for detail. This was what kept me reading through the slow, lengthy build-up. There is a vibrant quality to the description that makes places and people easy to envisage. There is not, however, enough distinction between the narrative voices of Walter Hartright and Marian Halcombe, so that if you haven't picked up the book for a few days, it is easy to forget whose letter or journal you are reading.
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Format: Paperback
This is a sequel of sorts to The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, using some of the characters from the novel, though the story is an entirely different plot. Walter Hartright is asked to undertake a biography of the artist JMW Turner to counteract a scurrilous biography that is also being written that, it is feared, will wrongly blacken Turner’s name. Hartright sets out to gather material and is assisted by his sister-in-law Marian Halcombe. It soon becomes apparent that Turner was a highly complex, secretive individual, with lots of skeletons tucked away in a variety of cobweb-lined cupboards. Both researchers get sucked into his bizarre story and are profoundly affected by what they discover - Hartright seems to unwittingly imitate some of the more sordid aspects of Turner’s behaviour. The book is written in the style of Wilkie Collins, in the forms of letters and journals, which gradually reveal the story from the perspectives of the main characters. It is story about the complexity of truth, of whether there can be an objective truth, or it is just a mess of subjective assertions. The reader, even at the end is never entirely sure about Turner and Hartright’s views on the artist. Was Hartright deceived, and the victim of a subtle conspiracy, or did he just deceive himself? Is there an objective truth about Turner’s life to be found, or is just made up of what others want Hartright to believe? It is a highly readable and absorbing book, though perhaps there were just a little too many sequences of interviews with people who knew Turner, which occasionally gave the novel a rather predictable feel.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 16 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an ambitiously conceived and well executed work, interweaving the lives of real and imagined characters. It's premise is that the principal characters in The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins are affected by their subsequent involvement of one of their number in the acceptance of a commission to write a life of J M W Turner, the English artist. Using a range of the literary devices familair from Victorian fiction such as extracts from the letters, diaries and notebooks of the protagonists, the author successfully creates pyschological and sexual tensions which are convincing in their effects on the lives of the principal characters. Much historical fiction is only costume melodrama. James Wilson is a good enough writer to avoid such pitfalls and has created a work that, although it is a pastiche of Victorian literature in the same vein as for example "The Quincunx" by Charles Palliser, is nonetheless well above the level of being simply "an enjoyable read".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
James Wilson's 'The Dark Clue' is a remarkable novel. It explores the fascinating hinterland of creativity - that of J M W Turner, the painter - through the Victorian lens of Wilkie Collins, one of the first detective novelists. Enigmatic and thoroughly convincing, the book plays startlingly on the boundaries of fact and fiction. It takes the reader from the secure realms of artistic 'appreciation' into the roots human behaviour and the possible depths of artistic 'inspiration'. This is a first rate piece of literary fiction and deserves to be read and acknowledged as such.
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