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The Dark Clue

2.88 of 5 stars 2.88  ·  rating details  ·  73 ratings  ·  15 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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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 I���m 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 I���m seven books behind in my journal ...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
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
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
Nick Thomas
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
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
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.
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.
Thomas Walsh
this claimed to be a sequel to "The Woman in White." Well, it contains the same characters, but they're used (cleverly and with epistolary technique) in a mystery novel about the painter Turner.
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
What tripe, and what a nerve, debauching another and a better writer's characters.
I just could not get into this book.
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