Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
Tales of mystery and the supernatural
on 15 October 2011
This collection of supernatural tales begins with the novella of the title, The Haunted Hotel. Contrary to other reviewers, I didn't think much of it; all the characters appeared like caricatures of themselves, especially the Countess Narona, and her nemesis, Agnes Lockwood; the villainess is portrayed as too evil, her counterpart as too good and saintly to be wholly believable. I found the entire set-up too overblown, the dialogue too pompous (no doubt that the Victorians loved exactly the drama of it), and the climax in the hotel bordering on the ridiculous. I'm afraid I could never engage with any of the characters, and the inevitability of the plot unfolding left me cold. I'm surprised to see that it's regarded as such a classic.
I'm afraid the other short stories included in this anthology (The Dream Woman; Mrs Zant and the Ghost; Miss Jeromette and the Clergyman; Blow Up with the Brig!; Nine o'Clock; The Devil's Spectacles) aren't much to write home about either and follow pretty much the well-known formula, no surprises there or much room for characterisation. The two exceptions are the rightly famous A Terribly Strange Bed, and The Dead Hand. The Terribly Strange Bed must surely be one of Wilkie Collins' best-loved stories, rightly celebrated for its daring originality, and reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. The Dead Hand starts in a similar way, turning an innocuous and familiar situation on its head and infusing it with terror; unfortunately the whole story is then let down by one of these truly incredible coincidences that the Victorians seemed to have been so fond of.
One for collectors and connoisseurs of the genre.