The Haunted Hotel
by Wilkie Collins
New York: Dover Publications, 1982.
(Originally published: London: Chatto & Watts, 1879)
A strange woman comes to visit a doctor, claiming that she may have a strange malady, perhaps even madness. The doctor examines her, but can find nothing wrong. After she leaves, he is intrigued: who is this woman, and why does she think another - her former rival in love - is fated to be her undoing?
Identity, madness, and fate are familiar themes to readers of Wilkie Collins' more famous books, The Moonstone and The Woman in White. This novella explores them all in a frenetic plot that I found somewhat compelling but far too melodramatic (a little bit of crazy female here, add a ghost here...) Maybe I'm just too cynical or maybe Collins' last story really does show the state of his own doped-up brain, as the back cover of my edition suggests. Either way, I found it hard to find the story believable, and his characterizations of females in this story annoyed me more than they have in the past. I think I would have been more affected by it when I was a teenager, scared more easily by the atmosphere of the story. I would, however, recommend it as an interesting (and short) example of early mystery.