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Wylder's Hand

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  146 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
A lost classic by one of the 19th century's most prominent writers of ghost stories and suspense novels

The Wylders and the Brandons share a history of intermarriage, bitter rivalry, villainy, and madness. The wedding of Mark Wylder to his rich and beautiful cousin, Dorcas Brandon, was to inaugurate a harmonious new era at Brandon Hallbut as the ceremony draws near, Mark di
...more
Paperback, 387 pages
Published January 1st 1978 by Dover Publications (first published 1864)
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Dfordoom
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
I’m a big fan of Joseph Sheridan le Fanu’s gothic fictions, especially Carmilla and Green Tea, but until now I hadn’t sampled any of his sensation novels. After reading Wylder’s Hand I can see myself tracking down lot more of his work in this genre!

The sensation novel was a kind of Victorian ancestor to the detective novel, with a crime as the lynchpin of the plot but generally without an actual detective as hero, and with a pinch of melodrama.

The plot of Wylder’s Hand is convoluted and contrive
...more
Tristram
A Deft Hand That Is Sometimes Shaky

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novels are always treats. You will invariably get a well-established atmosphere, a bunch of memorable and often ambivalent characters, a touch of the supernatural, one or two intriguing mysteries, some wry humour and a narrative style that operates with gaps which many another of Le Fanu’s colleagues would have filled with hints, thus destroying their effect.

In his novel Wylder’s Hand, which was published in three volumes in 1864 – be
...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
A very effective mystery story, albeit one without a sleuth, but rather a story in which a central mystery is established, hints are dropped, consequences are shown and a sustained atmosphere of suspense maintained until all is revealed in a final cataclysm. Pacing is one of Le Fanu's great strengths, and he maintains interest and tension very well over the course of about 400 pages with a cast of vivid characters, including several nasty villains, two fascinating heroines, a possibly spectral a ...more
Tocotin
I don't know yet what to make of this book - is it going to be a supernatural story, or just a mystery like Uncle Silas? - and it starts very slowly, but hey, it's Le Fanu, I'm gonna stick around.

And I'm glad I did. Le Fanu is the only author who always manages to surprise me. After the first half the book was difficult to put down. And I wonder what really was going on between Rachel and Dorcas... I hope they lived happily together in Venice.

<3 for Le Fanu and gotta love his early lolcat spe
...more
trishtrash
When Mark Wylder, engaged by convenience to his cousin, Dorcas Brandon, disappears with only a few unaddressed letters giving hint to his movements, the marriage and estate falls into the hands of Stanley Lake, a schemer ruled by his temper and jealousies; but is the change merely seized upon by Lake, or influenced by him from the beginning? And why is his sister Rachel thrown into despair by his – and her own – actions? Le Fanu’s novel, though not perfect, sustains a tense air of mystery and su ...more
Daniel Polansky
It's peculiar how badly pulp literature ages. I'm not sure why that is, exactly, but here we go. A hundred and fifty years ago everyone in England had read Walter Scott, he was absolutely ubiquitous, he was more than a writer he was a cultural reference point. If you wanted (so I gather) to make fun of someone's intellectual pretensions you might say of them that they were big Walter Scott fans, that kind of thing. These days, who on Earth has even read the Waverly novels? Anyway, Wylder's Hand ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, mystery, classics
A classic semi-horror/mystery tale, Le Fanu is rather descriptive and quite detailed regarding people, places, histories, and general situations throughout the novel...

The plot highlights the Wylder and Brandon families, both prone to frequent disagreements, and begins with a proposed marriage between Mark Wylder and Dorcas Brandon, note that they aren't particularly keen on marriage...

But then, Mark Wylder vanishes and issues specific to Mark's brother, William and the lawyer Josiah Larkin sur
...more
JoLynn
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dickensian intrigue with the merest hint of the supernatural. Atmospheric, with quite a good ending.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish author, probably best known for the short story 'Carmilla' about a female vampire. Carmilla was a great influence on Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, and has been used as the basis of many horror films. Le Fanu was the author of many other excellent gothic horror short stories. His best known novels are Uncle Silas and The House by the Churchyard, both dripp
...more
Catherine
Oct 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
A fun book with an intricate plot. Originally published serially, it's best read at least somewhat episodically so that it's length doesn't feel so cumbersome.
David Penton
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although this is not my first exposure to Le Fanu, I had previously been acquainted only with his short ghost stories. "Wylder's Hand" is quite a large undertaking, masterfully written, as is the case with most authors of this most brilliant and fecund period of fiction literature. Somewhat over-indulging in unnecessary details at times, it might prove mildly tedious to the reader at some points and intervals. Charmingly dated for the period of its conception and publication, but certainly not t ...more
Nat
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great 19th century mystery/melodrama with plenty of crying damsels and sneering villains. It is a long novel and i did feel some of the later chapters dragged a bit but overall this showed plenty of the wit and atmosphere i have come to expect from this authors stories.
Jeremy
Jun 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phew! finished it. A lost classic they called it - a classic crime book. First published in 1864, a time of horses and carriages, dog carts and tax carts (?!) and trains but not the telegraph so communication links were slow and cumbersome and always in person or the written word. A time when people very much new their place in society and opportunities for social advancement were two - marry into it or acquire wealth - both of which were fraught with dangers for those who tried.

We have the bea
...more
Rosemary
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this Victorian novel of mystery and suspense. The plot is like something Wilkie Collins might have written (though Le Fanu came first) but the language and style are much more accessible, which is perhaps why Le Fanu is not better known – he was written off as a popular ‘sensation’ novelist. These days perhaps we’re less judgmental about a writer’s ability to tell a good story.

The novel has its faults, e.g. the first person narrator tells us things he couldn’t have known and describes sc
...more
Anna Kennedy
Sep 30, 2012 rated it liked it


Good grief, I have to say I'm relieved to have finished that!!! Although now looking back on Wylder's Hand as a full novel I can appreciate its impressiveness and dark storyline, there were times during it that it felt like walking through treacle, particularly the descriptions of electioneering and conveyancing which thankfully were relatively brief. I completely agree with another reviewer's view that there is absolutely no need for a 'narrator' in this story, a gentleman who begins the narra
...more
Dave
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Picked this up at Halloween for the spookiness, but found the spooky much diluted. Le Fanu is great at moody scenery, ghostly madmen, hallucinations in the drawing room. He's not so good at organizing a novel: bad (pointless) choice of narrator; crucial mystery details subsumed by fuzzy, long-winded dissertations on real estate law and politics; and murderously slow pacing shoving the revelations to the last chapter.

Note: this really isn't a horror novel, though the horrific parts are the best p
...more
Yooperprof
I am mixed about this 1864 British crime thriller - 2.5 stars would be a more accurate rating for me. There were some things about it that I liked - the characterizations, the atmospheric writing, some of the arch Victorianism of the prose that now reads like pastiche or parody. Other things were just okay - the plot in particular, which doesn't really "go" anywhere, and also the overall length. It helps to remember that Le Fanu serialized the novel, and basically got paid by the word. As it res ...more
Justin Howe
A Gothic novel of Victorian real estate transactions, which means there's murder, blackmail, illegitimate children, and at least one mentally maladjusted relative wandering around the estate like a specter. Much of the novel's plot could have been solved by the two heroines becoming lesbians sooner.
Alvin
Aug 16, 2007 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gothic Roots Fans
No ratings on this one-it's alittle above my likes and dislikes. The descriptions of the manor house and characters beautiful and unsettling. It is time for a re-read. I voted to name my daughter, camille, after the character Dorcas,but for the unfortunate modern connotation it might have flown! I do recomend this one highly.D. Sayers' Miss Vane was researching LeFanu in Gaudy Night.
Aneela
Nov 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, classics
Read this as part of my 10 book classic crime collection from Atlantic books. An obscure victorian thriller, which definitely shows it's age at times. Personally, I preferred The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, but this was a good read as well.
Steve Goble
A slow starter of an old-fashioned mystery, sort of P.G. Wodehouse meets Jane Austen meets Wilkie Collins. Much of the plot involves hidden secrets and mysterious stratagems, and there are details of political power plays that are, frankly, annoying and irrelevant. And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it to be a page-turner in the latter stages.
Nancy
Jun 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes Gothic mysteries
Shelves: gothic, fiction
This was really much better than some of the other LeFanu I have read.
The plot was very good, the characters good and the atmosphere terrific. At no time was there a lag or a long boring section I had to get through to find out what happened.
LeFanu earned his reputation as the premier Gothic with "Uncle Silas," but I thought this lesser known work was just as good.
Nocturne
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Le Fanu writes not one but two fascinating female characters and a particularly sinister villain in the form of Josiah Larkin. Terrific atmosphere is maintained throughout the the story but the final resolution of the mystery falls a bit flat.
Joe
Apr 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, mysteries
I've liked what I've read previously by Le Fanu—especially Carmilla—and this has some nice uncanny moments, but it would have been twice as enjoyable if it were half as long.
Laura
Jan 21, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Wanda, Dagny, Karen
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Carol
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wilke Collins - Style Gothic Horror. Not my usual fare, but the language is impelling. The story is fascinating.
Catherine Siemann
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: victorians
Tricky, interesting mystery. Alas, the few supernatural moments all turn out to have rational explanations, and I guessed the solution early on, but it was still an enjoyable read.
Judy
Jun 16, 2008 rated it liked it
I quite enjoyed this, but the plot seemed a bit predictable at times, and I didn't think it was one of Sheridan Le Fanu's best.
Allan
rated it liked it
Feb 10, 2015
Marah Kabaservice
rated it really liked it
Aug 31, 2015
Michelle
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Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M.R. James described Le Fanu as "absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories". Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carm ...more
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