To me the psychological thriller has always been scarier than any form of supernatural horror story. It is the premise of a seemingly benign environment, sweet, happy and idyllic beneath which lurks something evil and sinister that gets me every time. A good psychological thriller scares my very soul and I do enjoy a good fright.
In my quest for a gripping thriller I came across the name of Wilkie Collins. Article after article touted him as the author who first wrote books containing unreliable narrators, evil characters, deadly secrets and so on. Someone who wrote stories that are innocuous and mundane on the surface but with an undercurrent of the macabre. One article even called him the father of the modern psychological thriller. I had to read his books.
I found my first Wilkie Collins book called The Woman in White available online. The book was written in 1859 and it is Wilkie Collins’ fifth book. The tale is told by multiple narrators in the form of witness statements. Collins has used the device of multiple narrators very effectively to create mystery and suspense without the whole seeming too unrealistic.
Albeit The Woman in White reads more like a mystery and suspense novel, I can see why it is the precursor for the modern psych thrillers. It has all the trappings of a Victorian love story but from the first page you know that this is no regular romance. Though more than the plot of the novel or the thrill of the mystery, it is some of the idiosyncratic characters that are the most memorable.
The mystery and the fate of these characters kept me reading till the end even though the book felt overly long and slow paced. This is of course my failure as a reader more than a failure on the writer’s part. Most books these days are fast paced with no lack of action, page turners so to speak. Collins’ book is not a page turner in that sense but it does enough to make you want to get to the end and maybe consider reading a few more by him.