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The Dark Clue Hardcover – 1 Nov 2001
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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.See all Product description
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It also left me wanting more though. To discover more about Turner, and his work in particular..
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.
In the last of the three books, the melodrama takes off with gusto and the novel finally comes close to being "gripping", but I felt that the pace could have been intensified more gradually and with more anticipatory tension (not least sexual tension between the two main characters, which could have added to the first and second books). The racy conclusion is an enjoyable read and lives up to its genre, but as a successor to Wilkie Collins, I'm afraid Wilson is left way behind by Sarah Waters.
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