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The Dark Clue

2.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  90 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
James Wilson's The Dark Clue is as stylishly inventive as the oil paintings of J. M. W. Turner, the elusive genius who lies at the thriller's heart.Sheltered, upright Walter Hartright is commissioned to write a biography of England's great Romantic landscape artist. When he discovers the "dark clue" hidden deep within Turner's paintings, he becomes eerily obsessed with rec ...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Atlantic Monthly Press
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Brenda Clough
The spoiler free version:
This is a loooong slow start, and you should plan to hang in for at least 150 fairly static pages before it picks up. You had also better know a whole lot about the Victorian cultural scene. It would not do you any harm to go rent Mr.TURNER (the movie, which came out in 2015) which will give you an idea of the main character. You will get no help from the author, who assumes you know all these people. All the other people in the book are merely researchers; it is Turner
Despite my very good intentions, I can already tell where my new efforts at journaling are going to fail. For one thing, I have more time to spend reading (while eating, while waiting for my husband to pick me up at work, etc) than I have to spend writing about my reading. So, even though Im making more notes as I read, and thinking more about my reading, the time to synthesize and distill those thoughts is lacking. Also, I read fast and a lot. Currently Im seven books behind in my journal and I ...more
I thought this book started out promisingly but ran out of steam in the second half. The mystery itself was a little bit muddled and I was not a fan of the plot twist at the end. I think I can see what he was trying to achieve but the whole idea of these post-modern Victorian novels is that they should be at least as readable as the original novels they are modelled on, that in some way the writers are attempting to improve on them and use modern writing methods to make the genre fresh. I didn't ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in June 2008.

The Dark Clue is a sequel, of sorts, to Wilkie Collins' classic The Woman in White. It has the same central characters: artist Walter Harkwright, and his sister-in-law Marion. Rich from his marriage but still relatively unsuccessful as an artist, Walter is approached to write a biography of JMW Turner, as a counterblast from still-living friends of the famous artist to a scurrilous biography raking up scandal (the actual first biography of Turner
Dec 26, 2015 Elderberrywine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
My, now, this was something.

Walter Hartright and sister-in-law Marian (characters from Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White) are commissioned to write a biography of the recently deceased British Painter, J. M. W. Turner. BTW - at the beginning, the choice of these two characters seems rather arbitrary, but the original novel's dynamic between these two begins to kick in about midway through.

The novel is in the form of letters and journal fragments, and as bits and pieces of Turner's secretive and
Oct 09, 2013 Emily rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you're a lover of "The Woman in White," you might hate "The Dark Clue." Walter Hartright turns unrecognizable and Marian Halcombe pretty nearly follows.

If, however, you're just looking for a good neo-Victorian novel... Well, you may still find yourself perplexed. Wilson's project here-- exploring Victorian England from the perspective of characters we already know and love but pulling down some of the veils Victorian writers had to keep up-- is appreciable and admirable. His treatment of pai
Aug 20, 2013 Deirdre rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I really enjoyed the first 100 pages and the writing gave me the sense that I was on the trail with the narrator. The description and analysis of JMW Turner's pictures were wonderful and beautifully written. However I did need to google the paintings themselves. I am not sure why I lost interest after page 100 - I couldn't cope any more with the intricacies of the detective story I guess. I couldn't connect with the blurbs on the backcover that's for sure - why would the author recreate a book w ...more
Aug 14, 2015 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost perfect pastiche of Wilkie Collins using some characters from "The Woman In White"
Nick Thomas
Jul 08, 2013 Nick Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! A book of real literary and psychological ambition. Wilson takes the hero of a Wilkie Collins novel and sets him on a vertiginous quest to unravel the hidden horrors encoded in Turner's paintings. He uses the epistolatory structure of early 19th century fiction and finds a totally successful voice for his characters. The tension of a psychological/art historical thriller is sustained by passages of exquisite description - sample the chapter on the South Downs: beautifully realized. And the ...more
Thomas Walsh
May 29, 2015 Thomas Walsh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read "The Woman in WHite" by WIlkie Collins twice. To me, it's one those "perfect" novels. "The Dark Clue" claims to be a sequel to "The Woman in White." Well, it contains the same characters, and they're used (cleverly and with epistolary technique) in a mystery novel about a proposed bio of the painter Turner. But, with all their enthusiasm and academice prowless, they come across a secret. THe book has the feel of a 19th century VicLit novel, and I happen to view that genre as my favorite! ...more
Sep 19, 2012 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This books was a bit disappointing. The parts that were about JMW Turner and his life and paintings are good and interesting, but it's too difficult to guess how much if fact and how much is purely from the author's own imagination. Also, the last third of the book goes pretty completely off the rails, and, without giving anything away, I found the ending particularly unsatisfying.

Still, there's aren't many novels about JMW Turner, and The Dark Clue is worth reading for Turner fans simply on tha
May 07, 2013 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very fine literary novel - exploring the dark and potentially very disturbing roots of J M W Turner's creativity as a painter via the early detective story techniques pioneered by Wilkie Collins during (almost) the same period. James Wilson therefore tells the historical tale in its own textual and literary terms. An excellent piece of work and highly recommended.
Andrew Scholefield
James Wilson creates a good atmosphere and describes Victorian London well. However, the book is very slow, very little happens and the ending is anti- climatic. If you are not interested in Turner the painter this would get very boring.
Feb 14, 2012 Barbara rated it liked it
The premise of this novel was interesting, and it had just enough intrigue to keep me hanging in there and finish it. But upon completion I am asking myself, what was the point of it? I probably will go back and read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, because the relationship between the two main characters interested me.
Oddly compelling, even though the content of the book--investigating the painter Turner--was not really all that thrilling.
Paul Heather
A good read but I found the last chapter difficult to credit. Need to read the Wilkie Collins books
Oct 01, 2009 Hilary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What tripe, and what a nerve, debauching another and a better writer's characters.
Aug 05, 2013 Jonathan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just could not get into this book.
Oct 05, 2012 Amna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Most trashy book.
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JAMES WILSON was born and brought up near Cambridge, and studied History at Oxford University. He now divides his time between London and France.

In 1975 James received a Ford Foundation grant to research and write The Original Americans: US Indians, for the Minority Rights in London. Over the next twenty-five years he travelled widely in the US and Canada, working on – among other projects – a num
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