Victorians! discussion

The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice
This topic is about The Haunted Hotel
26 views
Archived Group Reads 2020 > The Haunted Hotel - Week 2 - Chapters V-VIII

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Cindy, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cindy Newton | 296 comments Mod
We see more complications in this week's chapters. Agnes helped her friend's husband, Mr. Ferrarri, get a position as a courier with her former fiance in last week's reading. This week, he inexplicably vanishes, leaving his wife distraught and convinced of his murder. His letters reveal a growing discontent with his situation, as well as disharmony between the newly-wedded couple.

The new Lady Montbarry is joined in her honeymoon travels by her "brother," the Baron Rivar. First of all, inviting your brother on your honeymoon is rather odd in itself, but there are rumors that the relationship between Lady Montbarry and the Baron is suspect and decidedly not fraternal. Then the newly married lord sickens and dies on his wedding trip. leaving his wife, we presume, in possession of his fortune (whatever that may be). The insurers travel to Italy to investigate the death, sensing something out of kilter but are unable to discover any proof of wrongdoing or fraud.

Mrs. Ferrarri is convinced that her husband ferreted out the romantic relationship between Lady Montbarry and the Baron, and they killed him to silence him. Agnes is prostrated by Lord Montbarry's death, still not recovered from her passion for him despite his cruel treatment of her.

So what are your thoughts? There are several mysterious occurrences in these chapters. What do you think has happened to Mr. Ferrarri? Do you think that Lord Montbarry really died of bronchitis? What is the story behind the check Mrs. Ferrarri receives in the mail? Do we believe that the Baron is Lady Monbarry's brother? I look forward to your take on it!


message 2: by Pamela (last edited Sep 08, 2020 06:42AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) | 51 comments Hmm the mystery deepens. It certainly appears that all the doctors are convinced Lord Montbarry died of natural causes. I wonder about the significance of the chemistry experiments that Baron Rivar spends his time working on.

I felt very sorry for Mrs Ferrari, the solicitor was quite dismissive of her fears and Agnes has made it clear she doesn’t want to get involved. She doesn’t really have anyone on her side at the moment, and her husband has vanished.

At the close of this section it appears that the money came from Lord Montbarry, but he wasn’t involved in the disappearance himself because he kept ringing for the courier to sit with him when he was ill, and didn’t realise he had gone. So maybe he somehow realised later that week that Ferrari was dead?


message 3: by Brenda (last edited Sep 08, 2020 08:31AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments I think it all feels suspicious. Lady Montbarry is the only one that attends to her sick husband, while her “brother” is downstairs in this chemist’s studio. I think Mrs. Ferrarri is well placed with her assumptions.

I’m still not sure how I feel about Collins and his writing. I’m not sure if its in general or the time, but his tendency towards the description of the female characters is largely unfavorable and belittling. He calls Agnes maid the “the old nurse”, Lady Montbarry’s maid was “rather a silent, unsociable woman”. “Ferrari's wife listened, without being convinced: her narrow little mind…”

The men seem to fare better…. We know the doctor had a good reputation and was in receipt of one of the highest incomes, the lawyer of Agnes…"He possessed a keen eye for character, a quaint humour, and a kindly nature…”, etc.

I'm finding the mystery interesting, and I'm curious to see how it plays out. Although, its always the spouse you know, so I'd like to see what haunting comes into play and if it is her and the baron.

Otherwise, I'm having a hard time with the writing as I said. I find myself cringing a lot and just being irritated. I wonder if he really hates women, or if its part of the story, or the times, or what?

This is the first I've read Wilkie Collins, so I'm not familiar with his writing style, so my comments on that are only pertaining to this read, as I have no other knowledge as yet.


Rosemarie | 199 comments I am also very suspicious about Lord Montbarry's death, who was not known to have lung problems while in England.

This book is probably not the best introduction to Collins since it is more like a sensation novel than his two most famous works-The Moonstone and The Woman in White.
I have noticed that the quality of the writing in this book, and the character development as well, are not up to the level in those books.
This is definitely a plot driven book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.


message 5: by Pamela (last edited Sep 08, 2020 09:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) | 51 comments Brenda wrote: "I’m not sure if it’s in general or the time, but his tendency towards the description of the female characters is largely unfavourable and belittling.”

I also thought the comment about Mrs Ferrari’s “narrow little mind” was rather unfair, Brenda. I wonder if it is misogyny, though, or perhaps more based on class snobbery. Agnes tends to be depicted more favourably than the servants, I feel.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Thank you Rosemarie, its good to have some context since he is new to me. I will try to disregard certain aspects for others. LOL


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Pamela wrote: Agnes tends to be depicted more favourably than the servants, I feel.

Which is interesting, as she was a teacher, correct? And has no money either. But, I think in that time period, class distinctions were everything. I don't remember her exact standing or if it was mentioned and I'm afraid to do a web search to not spoil the rest of the story. So I wonder if its for effect of the novel and to reiterate that, or if that's Collins? I've read other authors of the time period, but don't feel I've seen quite the animosity Collins has shown.

I am skimming a few portions and now go back to when the boys in the club were gossiping and Agnes was shown as being superior to the Countess. Yes, Agnes it certainly show in the most favorable light above most everyone.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments But now as I reread a few portions of the first encounter between the Dr. and the Countess, I'm wondering if the Countess and her "brother" did have a plan? Who knows if all she told the Dr. was true? At the boys club it comes out the the brother convinced Lord Montbarry to take out the insurance policy and for all to go to his wife.

Maybe a plan was already in place and maybe the Countess was already feeling some guilt when she ran into her at the luncheon? Maybe Agnes, who we see is still in love with Lord M., will haunt the Countess somehow to find out what really happened to him?

I wonder if this story to the Dr. is for the Countess and her "brother" if they have done something, to put a different story in the air ahead of time? Or try to turn something against Agnes?


Rosemarie | 199 comments It was a very classist society in those days in England. Also, people from other countries were often considered inferior to the British.


Rosemarie | 199 comments Brenda, I don't trust the "Brother" either.
Your comments make a lot of sense.


message 11: by Cindy, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cindy Newton | 296 comments Mod
Pamela wrote: "At the close of this section it appears that the money came from Lord Montbarry, but he wasn’t involved in the disappearance himself because he kept ringing for the courier to sit with him when he was ill, and didn’t realise he had gone. So maybe he somehow realised later that week that Ferrari was dead?..."

No, I don't believe Lord Montbarry was involved in Ferrarri's disappearance, but he seems to have some knowledge of it and of Ferrarri's fate. I wonder how he knows the man is dead?


message 12: by Cindy, Moderator (last edited Sep 08, 2020 09:14PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cindy Newton | 296 comments Mod
Brenda wrote: "I think it all feels suspicious. Lady Montbarry is the only one that attends to her sick husband, while her “brother” is downstairs in this chemist’s studio. I think Mrs. Ferrarri is well placed wi..."

I haven't found Collins to be misogynistic in his other writings; in fact, he creates strong female characters whose powerful actions have a big impact on the story. I'm not sure where he's going with the Countess's character yet, but I have seen him create a complex, fascinating villainess, so we'll see whether he does the same here.

I, too, am interested to see where the haunting comes in. So far we have two dead characters, so will it be one of them or a yet-unrevealed spirit?


message 13: by Cindy, Moderator (last edited Sep 13, 2020 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cindy Newton | 296 comments Mod
Rosemarie wrote: "I am also very suspicious about Lord Montbarry's death, who was not known to have lung problems while in England.

This book is probably not the best introduction to Collins since it is more like a..."


I would agree with you, Rosemarie, that this might not be the best example of Collins' work. We'll see how it ends before deciding, but he's going to have to go a long way to beat The Woman in White and Armadale, as far as I'm concerned, but that is because I love both of those. I don't know the ending of this one yet, but I have yet to read a book by Collins that disappointed me. I don't expect this one to do so, either!


message 14: by Iza (new) - rated it 2 stars

Iza Brekilien (izabrekilien) Brenda wrote: "I think it all feels suspicious. Lady Montbarry is the only one that attends to her sick husband, while her “brother” is downstairs in this chemist’s studio. I think Mrs. Ferrarri is well placed wi..."

The "narrow little mind" bothered me too and I agree, the women don't seem to fare well with Collins except Agnes (the usual Victorian angel ?). It's funny because I read the Moonstone last year, I think, and I don't remember women being described the same way.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments I’ve not read anything else by Collins that I remember, so I am going to make a point to read something else by him soon. I’d like another reference.


Trisha | 46 comments Brenda wrote: "I’ve not read anything else by Collins that I remember, so I am going to make a point to read something else by him soon. I’d like another reference."

Brenda, may I suggest reading No Name - I liked it better than Woman in White. It also shows him challenging the way women were treated.


Brenda (gd2brivard) | 141 comments Thanks Trisha ! I’m adding it to my TBR for November. Squeezing lots of audio books in before I have to return to the office next year from working at home.


message 18: by Piyangie, Moderator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Piyangie | 825 comments Mod
Ferrari's disappearance (or death as his wife claims) seems very suspicious. His letters to his wife hint at some untoward relationship between the Lady Montbarry and the Baron. I felt from the beginning that those two are not what they claim to be. And now, has he become a victim, because of his knowledge?

Baron's insistence on Lord Montbarry insuring his life in favor of his wife is also suspicious. It looks like some plan was on work. And now the Lord is dead and looks like of natural causes, and Lady Montbarry is free to claim his life insurance money. It all looks too convenient for me.

By the way, Baron Rivar and his chemical experiments reminded me of Count Fosco in The Woman in White!


back to top