“Is it Laura’s reluctance to become his wife that has set me against him? Have Hartright’s perfectly intelligible prejudices infected me without my suspecting their influence? Does that letter of Anne Catherick’s still leave a lurking distrust in my mind, in spit of Sir Percival Glyde’s explanation, and of the proof in my possession of the truth of it? 
Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie are half sisters who are best friends. They live a quiet life under their selfish invalid uncle’s guardianship at the Limmeridge House until Laura’s marriage to Sir Percival Glyde, who expresses himself to the base imputation of marrying her entirely from mercenary (and ulterior) motives. In the marriage settlement, Percival makes an audacious proposal that the personal inheritance of Laura Fairlie, which amounts to over thirty thousand pounds, shall roll over to him in the event of Laura’s death. When Marian stumbles upon his insidious design but cannot account for the state of her feelings, an anonymous letter addressed to Laura advises her to inquire into the past of her fiancé.
. . . the one perpetual thought in Laura’s mind and mine [Marian], that we were to part the next day, and the haunting dread, unexpressed by either of us, and yet ever present to both, that this deplorable marriage might prove to be the one fatal error of her life and the one hopeless sorrow of mine. 
The strange appearances of a young woman who claims to be conversant of Sir Percival Glyde’s past secrets also prejudice the sisters against the baronet. Their drawing master, Walter Hartright, has assisted this same mysterious woman, who dresses in complete white, to escape from the asylum. Meanwhile, the bond of Percival and Count Fosco is strengthened by their similarity of pecuniary position. Taking advantage of the deplorable calamity of Marian’s illness, the partners in crime are able to induce a series of falsehoods that thwart Anne Catherick’s (the woman in white) communication with Lady Glyde (Laura). The disclosure of the secret that Anne Catherick beholds would ruin Sir Percival Glyde and thus the monetary prospect.
Who could wonder now at the brute-restlessness of the wretch’s life—at his desperate alterations between abject duplicity and reckless violence—at the madness of guilty distrust which had made him imprison Anne Catherick in the Asylum, and had given him over to the vile company against his wife . . . 
The Woman in White is an epistolary novel that is told in different narratives, but more of a chronological manner that the persons concerned in the story only appear when the course of events takes them up. That many of these characters are isolated renders them most susceptible to the chicaneries of the perpetrators. In a way, the purpose of the manipulations is to create “blindspots” in everyone involved so that one is often led to court suspicion that is wrong for the sake of diverting himself from other suspicion that is right.
The intricate details and occasional discrepancy of the narratives contribute to the ingeniousness of plots in The Woman in White. The story is at one point long-winding (as a result of Collins’s punctilious style), but the suspense often makes me wonder if it’s possible that appearances in one case has pointed one way while the truth lay all the while unsuspected in another direction. How Collins take seemingly disjointed pieces of the puzzle, plots that don’t at the first glace add up, and orchestrate them into a story so coherent and yet convoluted is beyond my comprehension.
609 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]