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B'. .melodrama is perennial and the craving for it is perennial and must be satisfied' T. S. Eliot ('Wilkie Collins and Dickens') Collins's ability to construct a gripping situation and to create an atmosphere of mystery and menace is fully evident in the three novellas reprinted here. All proceed through a series of dramatic scenes to a climax that in one case at least is literally explosive. The fast-paced Miss or Mrs? (1871) opens on a yacht, features a remarkably unconventional heroine, and entails murder attempts, blackmail, clandestine marriage and commercial fraud. Dramatic and psychologically absorbing, the action of The Haunted Hotel (1878) takes place in an ancient Venetian palazzo converted into a modern hotel that houses a grisly secreI. Lastly, set in a beautiful water-mill, The Guilty River (1886) depicts a group of alienated characters, whose relationships threaten to erupt in violence and murder. Varied in setting and tone, these stories demonstrate Collins's plot-making skill at its most succinct and intricate. *Introduction * Textual Note * Bibliography * Chronology * * Explanatory Notes *Appendix: Collins's prefaces.