First sentence: At a quarter to one o'clock, on a wet Sunday afternoon, in November 1837, Samuel Snoxell, page to Mr. Zachary Thorpe, of Baregrove Square, London, left the area gate with three umbrellas under his arm, to meet his master and mistress at the church door, on the conclusion of morning service.
Premise/plot: Mr. Valentine Blyth is an artist. While working in the country side--painting portraits of babies and sometimes painting portraits of horses--he sees a deaf/dumb girl named Mary. She's ten or so. He and his wife don't have any children, and, he pities her since she's literally the property of a circus. Mrs. Peckover (the wife of one of the clowns) is raising her as best she can but she agrees that Mr. and Mrs Blyth might make more suitable parents. She tells Mr. Blyth all she knows about Mary's (Madonna's) origins. She gives him a hair bracelet--all that is left of the mother's belongings. Many years later, Mr. Blyth welcomes into his home a Mr. Zack Thorpe. Zack has aspirations for being an artist; at the moment he's a semi bad-boy. He isn't past all hope yet, but, he's certainly not hanging out with the right people and doing as he should--if he wants to be a respectable, honorable gentleman. One day, however, he does a good deed for a stranger, a "wild" man named Mat Grice. Mat swears that he will always, always think of Zack as a brother. The two move in together, and Zack introduces him to Mr. Blyth. While a guest in Blyth's home, he becomes a bit sly and seems very shady. Thus the mystery begins...Who is Madonna's father? Who was her mother? How is Mat connected--if at all--to Madonna? What kind of man is Mat?
My thoughts: Hide and Seek is Wilkie Collins' third novel. I've not read either of his previous novels: Antonina (1850) or Basil (1852). It is his first mystery novel, I believe.
I definitely enjoyed this one. I can't say that I loved, loved, loved it. But I definitely wanted to keep reading. I did not guess everything ahead of time. But I did get a strong sense in the beginning of the novel that the romance between Zack and Madonna was doomed some way, some how. The character that surprised me most was Mat. I really had my doubts about him when he was first introduced. But by the end of the novel, I definitely wanted him to have a happy ending.
One word about the plot, I do think it seems a bit ridiculous how Mat pieces EVERYTHING together based on two locks of hair being the EXACT SAME SHADE. Hair color does not equal a DNA test. That is all.
Our destinies shape the future for us out of strange materials: a traveling circus sufficed them, in the first instance, to shape a new future for Mr. Blyth. (41)
Art wouldn't be the glorious thing it is, if it wasn't all difficulty from beginning to end. (120)
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews