The Notting Hill Mystery

The Notting Hill Mystery - Charles Warren Adams, George du Maurier A gothic mystery in which the supernatural is enclosed in a documentary format, allowing the author - a nameless, faceless type - to say "believe it if you like". I quite liked this - the overarching report contained mostly epistolary evidence, and certain amount of apparatus (notes, cross-referernces and the like). There are two disadvantages of this method: first, although you can characterize your letter-writers a bit through their correspondence, the main characters (who are the subjects of the letters) move through the story a bit dimly and at a distance. Second, a certain amount of verisimilitude requires a certain amount of repetition between writers, which in anything but very skilful hands, can become a bit tedious. There was some of that tedium in this novel.

Speaking of characterization through writing style, the opening of this novel - the report writer's apologia - has to be the gnarliest bit of prose I've ever had to fight my way through to get into a story!

Spoilers ahead (though a little silly for an 1862 novel)... the only solution of the problem that really works is the notion that a woman can be poisoned through the mysterious sympathy between twin sisters: the heroine's sister is physically poisoned by her villainous husband but survives a little longer than the heroine; thus the mysterious Baron R contrives thus to knock off the ladies in the correct order to gain the maximum gold.

I quite enjoyed it!