The Dark Clue
By James Wilson
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802139290, 400pp.)
Publication Date: January 2003
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Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as "a luscious Victorian thriller" that "sends two characters from Wilkie Collins's 1860s novel [The Woman in White] on a brilliant literary mission," James Wilson's The Dark Clue is as stylishly inventive as the oil paintings of J. M. W. Turner, the elusive genius who lies at the thriller's heart. Sheltered, upright Walter Hartright is commissioned to write a biography of England's great Romantic landscape artist. When he discovers the "dark clue" hidden deep within Turner's paintings, he becomes eerily obsessed with reconstructing a life that is shrouded in mystery and steeped in rumor. To do so, he seeks help from a Dickensian assemblage of the lowest and highest elements of society, from John Ruskin to the tawdry women of the dockside brothels. Soon enough, he uncovers evidence of unspeakable depravity, but can it be believed? Acclaimed historian James Wilson's debut novel offers a "compelling vision of the mean streets of London," a "marvelous period-piece mystery" whose "vivid evocation of Turner's paintings -- the brooding colors and dark clues -- will haunt the reader" (Helen Parramore, Tampa Tribune). "[Wilson's] descriptions ... are as luminous, majestic, and mysterious as Turner's finest paintings; you may read them in awe." -- The Washington Post Book World "Irresistibly flavorful ... Wilson keeps a firm grip on our attention." -- Bruce Allen, The Boston Globe "Evocative and sophisticated ... Wilson's exacting, detailed descriptions of Victorian England ... make for vivid storytelling." -- Publishers Weekly