The story of the Dead Secret would have made a great film in the 1940s. Imagine as an opening, a scary looking Joan Crawford lying on her death bead forcing a very nervy Jennifer Jones, her lady’s maid, to write a confession letter directed to Joan’s husband. The letter is never given to the husband, and thus Jennifer Jones is forever haunted by the ghost of Joan until that final debt is paid. This would make for a very melodramatic film, though one that would probably be very unsettling. ;)
The story itself is an interesting one, though you can easily tell that it is an early work of Collins. Collins seems to be experimenting with his characters and his ability to create vivid characterizations. There are some wonderfully funny characters here, namely Mr. Phippen, but they really don’t serve a major purpose to drive the plot. Other major characters could have easily taken their place. Also, I think Collins used some of the characters in this story as a basis for other characters in his later works. Rosamond is very much like Magdalen and her sister Norah in No Name
. As well, Mr. Phippen reminded me of Mr. Fairlie in The Woman in White
. As well, I rather liked the eccentric Andrew Treverton and his grouchy, crusty servant, Shrowl. Together they make a wonderful combination and I wished they had a larger presence in this text.
Overall, I felt that Collins did a good job with this story. The themes are very good and I really liked how Collins had the characters come to terms with the secret. But, I think his later works are stronger and more cohesive in terms of character and plot structure.