CUT BY THE COUNTY
MARY ELIZABETH BRADDON
To many contemporary critics sensation fiction by Braddon and Wilkie Collins
was feeding a dangerous and unhealthy craving for violent crime and the depiction
of immoral and unwholesome characters. Sensation fiction's preoccupation with
secrets, and the revelation of those secrets and of crime, are often so intrinsic
to the plot that they must be considered as the antecedents of the emergent
detective novel. Today Braddon is frequently credited as one of the most important
writers of Victorian crime fiction, and amateur and professional detectives
frequently appear in her work.
Published in 1886, Cut By the County shows the progression from sensation fiction to detective fiction. The novel contains an amateur detective, in the form of Colonel Weldon Stukely, pitted against a professional detective, Mr. Penwern of Scotland Yard.
Colonel Stukely returns to England after many years, and visits his old friend Sir Allan Darnel. Sir Alan's second wife, Clare, is a widow of mysterious origins, and because of this she has been ostracised by local society. Sir Allan's daughter, Grace, confides in the Colonel that she is secretly engaged to a poor French painter, who the Colonel fears will blackmail her into keeping the promise she made as a schoolgirl. Soon the Colonel is forced to become an amateur detective to protect Grace's reputation when Sir Allan is shot, a large sum of money stolen, and Clare is under suspicion. The secrets of Clare's past have returned to haunt the present.
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