Present Tense Book Review – Lady Audley’s Secret

This week I’ve been continuing my classic crime kick with Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Written in 1862, it’s getting on for 150 years old. Which is one of those incredible things that seem perfectly reasonable on the face of it, but really, it’s sort of crazy that I’m sat here in my nice centrally-heated house with ‘The IT Crowd’ on in the background, reading this mid-Victorian novel. And then wittering about it on my blog.

I’m not sure what contemporary audiences would have made of the story – we are all very well-versed, now, in the conventions of crime fiction or TV shows, and approach such stories with a suspicious mind. But this book is, I guess, part of the foundations for such conventions. From the off I could see the shape of what was happening quite clearly, but I’m not sure if readers would have originally found it more opaque. In any case, it’s quite good fun, a bit like Columbo, where you know who’s responsible for the dastardly deeds, but the pleasure is in seeing how it’s all pieced together. I’m about a third of the way through, and we’re properly getting into the battle of wit and nerve between the amateur sleuth, Robert Audley, and his new, enigmatic, aunt…

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