I had actually plannedon reading and reviewing The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins last month for Venice in February, but totally ran out of time. I’m glad I went ahead and read it though. It’s kind of a gothic horror story/ mystery, a bit unbelievable, but definitely spooky.
The story opens with a mysterious woman, Countess Narona, asking a doctor if he thinks she is going mad. She is a widow engaged to be married to Lord Montbarry, man who has jilted his previous fiancée. She explains to the doctor that when she met this other woman she “turned cold from head to foot, and shuddered, and shivered, and knew what a deadly panic of fear was, for the first time in [her] life.” The doctor leaves the encounter with the mysterious woman with the distinct, if unfounded, impression that she is in fact wicked.
We soon meet Agnes Lockwood, the woman who was deserted by Montbarry. She is a charming, kind, lovely woman and, to help a friend, allows herself to be used as a reference for a courier who wishes to be employed by the Montbarry’s during their travels.
The courier is soon dead, as is Lord Montbarry himself, and the Countess’s brother. Are they natural deaths or murder? The mysteries come to a head at a palace turned hotel in Venice, when all the main characters and several secondary ones are gathered. Is Lord Montbarry haunting the building? The Countess is slipping into madness, and she may be the only one who knows the whole truth.
Countess Narona is a fascinating character. She truly believes that she can foresee her own punishment and doom for the evils she has/will do. And she believe that her fate will be brought to her by Agnes. But each step she takes in an attempt to forestall that destiny draws her closer to the inevitable.
The tension is palpable from the opening to the end of the novella. The solution to the mystery is rather chilling, mostly in thanks to the whole atmosphere that Collins has created. It’s not a horror masterpiece, but it is enjoyable.
4 out of 5 stars
Category: Horror, Mystery
First published 1878
March Mystery Madness is hosted by Christina at Reading Thru the Night.
Book source: Purchased (Free for Kindle)