The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice
I seem to be running perpetually behind this year, despite all my best of plans. February was supposed to be dedicated to all books Venetian, but between running behind on Shakespeare and a library hold that came in quicker than I expected (and which was non-renewable), I’m only now getting to Venetian books.
I had somewhat hoped to find a book to read by an actual Venetian author, but those seem to be few. (Marco Polo and Casanova were the only two authors I found, do let me know if you know of any others who’ve been translated into English.) So I was limited to books set in Venice. What a hardship.
I’ve been to Venice and remember it fondly. It’s always more fun, I find, when I read a book set in a place I’ve been: the locales are easier to picture, for they’ve been seen.
Alas, the book I choose to read was only partially set in Venice. Collins’s novella, written in 1878 but set in 1860-61, begins in London (a city I’ve never been to). Interestingly, I felt that Collins’s Venice was more vivid than his London, and not just because I know the one and not the other. In The Haunted Hotel, Venice the place is also a character for it is in Venice, a city like no other, that the supernatural—events like no other—might just possibly happen.
I didn’t know much about The Haunted Hotel as I began it, so I hesitate to reveal too much here. It is more a thriller than a mystery; there are no detectives here. Lords and ladies, siblings and jilted lovers populate its pages. As the action moves from London to Venice, the tension ratchets up. We think something dreadful may happened there, or are we only the gullible dupes of a hysterical Mrs.? What dark secrets might the canals and palazzi conceal? Does the supernatural lurk, or is madness our villain?
I have never been disappointed in Collins, and this is no exception. Or rather, my only disappointment is that I didn’t save it for October, when it would be so perfectly seasonal. (And I am more excited than ever to read The Woman in White—in October.) A solid read, one I would enthusiastically recommend. Just save it for October.