The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, develops from a famous scene in Victorian literature: the late-night encounter of Walter Hartright with a mysterious lone woman, near Hampstead Heath, after midnight, ‘a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments; her face bent in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud over London, as I faced her’. This is the enigmatic Anne Catherick, escaped from an asylum. Anne serves to further the plot by acting as an uncanny double for Hartright’s beloved, Laura Fairlie, the main lady in danger.
Collin’s intricately plotted story is organized as a chain of witness statements from a wide diversity of characters designed to unravel a cunning conspiracy against innocent women by a duo of aristocratic monsters, Sir Percival Glyde and his devilish companion, Count Fosco.
The Woman in White was written in 1859, and is considered to be among the first mystery novels and an early example of detective fiction with Walter Hartright using many of the sleuthing techniques of later private detectives.