January 5th, 2011

No Name: Wilkie Collins

Magdalen and Norah are bastards. They don't find out until their parents die and it's too late to do anything about it and their inheritance has become forfeit to their wicked Uncle Michael. Norah dutifully submits, but spirited Magdalen, the amateur actress- sets off to win her money back in a whirlwind campaign of disguise, deceit and burglary. She is assisted in this- to her profit and our delight- by the gloriously amoral Captain Wragge- a professional conman worthy of the Dickens menagerie.  Collins tips his hat once in a while to the gods of the Victorian hearth, but he despises them really and his heart is with his lovely grifters. He is best known for The Moonstone and The Woman in White- landmarks in the development of the thriller and the detective novel- but this subversive and unclassifiable romp is even better.