Review of ‘The Haunted Hotel’ by Wilkie Collins

Do you want to read a scary story? Then I don’t recommend this one. Published as part of a series called Penguin Red (although the covers are yellow and black), The Haunted Hotel is presented as a horror novel. It’s really a domestic drama with a murder mystery. In fact, it’s similar to the other Wilkie Collins books I’ve read, but not as long. I’d been tempted by the idea of a haunted hotel, but I was disappointed. The supernatural element appears towards the end of the book. Basically the story is about a lord’s death in Venice and the web of mystery which his family is drawn into.

I generally liked the book but I had some problems with it. I don’t think it has aged well. Collins uses the old stereotype of ‘foreigners’ being immoral and sinister. There are three non-British characters and they are all very negatively portrayed. I suppose that’s part of the gothic tradition but it wasn’t original. The female characters  – the sickeningly good Agnes Lockwood, the apparently evil Countess Narona, the whiny ex-servant and the stubborn old nurse – are described as if their behaviour is due to them being female. Maybe the author was reducing his idea of women into these characters. By contast, the males (those who aren’t foreign) are efficient, calm, detective-like. I also felt that the tense build-up to the ending was ultimately a let-down. It was predictable. Perhaps the original audience would have found it more thrilling.

First published in 1889. This edition was published in 2008.

14 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Haunted Hotel’ by Wilkie Collins”

  1. Great review. A lot of books written a long time ago suffer from offending people today and with good reason. I’m guessing that the stereotypes fitted the time period more, although it does still seem very harsh. A shame it’s not as good to read it today, but still sounds interesting to me as I like reading classics and seeing how different they are from today’s novels 🙂

    1. Thanks! 🙂
      There are classics I enjoy even when they have outdated views or stereotypes, but in this case it was just annoying. I think my problem was more that it was presented as a scary book when it wasn’t.

  2. I really enjoyed this one, I love Wilkie Collins storytelling. Of course it is very much of its time, and certain things date it.

    1. I’m glad this is one you enjoyed! I think it just wasn’t what I expected. I’m not a big fan of Collins’ writing (at least in the three other of his novels I’ve read) so I suppose it’s not a surprise I didn’t get on with this one…

  3. I agree that some classics are just….just not suited for the modern audience. And I would NEVER have guessed that there wont be a ghost in a novel called The Haunted Hotel?! 🤣🤣🤣 Man, that’s DEFINITELY a big disappointment!

    1. Ha ha, maybe there was a ghost but I didn’t spot it. I probably wasn’t paying that much attention to it towards the end. I’m not saying it’s a bad book as such, just that it wasn’t what I was expecting!

    1. Thank you 🙂
      I remember liking the story of The Woman in White, I just don’t seem to get on with his writing style.

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