Well...I finally finished this novel. It felt like it took forever, particularly because it got so scary that I needed a little break from time to time.
All in all, I was pleased with it. I enjoyed the colorful parade of narrators that take turns moving the story forward and I think that Collins, in classic Victorian verbosity, can spin a decent yarn.
Apparently this is considered to be the world's first suspense novel and Wilkie Collins was a contemporary and friend of Dickens. Collins was also a drug addict with a bizarre private life (although I didn't sense that from the book).
The one thing that really irked me about this novel was the passivity of the female characters. From one perspective, it's an interesting study of women in 1800s. But for the first 300 pages or so, Laura and Marian fumble around stumbling into traps laid by two men: They put a letter in the post bag, their mail is swiped; they decide to visit another character, but someone has already been there and sent that character elsewhere. It takes Mr. Hartright to put things "right" (sorry, I couldn't resist). Since our paradigm is so fundamentally different, its' frustrating to watch these poor ladies get jerked around with no form of recourse.
I'm glad I read it though.