Wilkie Collins was a contemporary (and friend) of Charles Dickens, author of Bleak House (and many other books) and serves as the narrator of the novel Drood. After reading about his rather sordid personal life in Drood, I was interested to see what Collins' writing would be like. It did not disappoint.
The Woman in White was originally published in serial form beginning in November 1859. It is a suspense novel filled with dastardly deeds and mysterious events. Spying and intercepted letters and forged documents and secret loves all play a part in the complex plot and keep the pages turning. What gives the novel weight is the characters. Each is a detailed and unique individual, especially the villains.
The point of view of the narrative switches around so you see events and people from various perspectives which adds depth to each character. Count Fosco, for example, is felt by some narrators to be evil and sneaky and definitely responsible for harming them all. Other narrators contend that he is the personification of a gentleman and acting only out of kindness and concern for the well being of them all. By the end you get a report of the actions from his own viewpoint and can draw your own conclusions.
The novel is composed of many pairs of people and this parallel structure --two heroines, two villains, two houses-- helps keep the action of the story moving without having to give anything away too soon.
I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading Collins' The Moonstone which was discussed at length in Drood.