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Foul Play   By: (1814-1884)

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Foul Play by Charles Reade is a gripping and suspenseful novel that delves into the dark underbelly of society and exposes the corruption and moral depravity that often lurks beneath the surface. Set in the mid-19th century, the story takes us on a journey through the intricacies of a murder trial, seamlessly blending crime, drama, and romance to create a deeply engrossing narrative.

The book revolves around the central character, Richard Wardlaw, a talented and hardworking lawyer who finds himself defending the accused in a murder case that seems to have no clear solution. Reade skillfully weaves together multiple plotlines, each with its own set of intriguing characters and suprising twists, keeping the reader hooked from the very beginning.

The author's attention to detail is commendable, as he meticulously paints vivid and realistic scenes with his words. From the grimy streets of London to the opulent drawing rooms of the elite, Reade effortlessly transports the reader into the atmospheric world he has created. His rich descriptions not only enhance the visual experience but also serve to highlight the stark disparities in social class and the struggles faced by individuals from different walks of life.

What sets Foul Play apart is Reade's exploration of the complexities of human nature. Through his characters, he delves into the depths of their psyche, forcing us to question our own notions of right and wrong. The moral ambiguity portrayed throughout the novel challenges the reader to reflect on the choices we make and the consequences they may have.

The pacing of the story is another aspect that deserves praise. Reade masterfully balances moments of intense action and suspense with more contemplative and introspective passages, creating a perfect equilibrium that keeps the reader engaged throughout. The gradual unraveling of the mystery and the gradual reveal of the truth is expertly handled, leaving us guessing until the very end.

While the book certainly excels in many aspects, it is not without its flaws. At times, the narrative can be overly convoluted, with numerous subplots and characters that may feel overwhelming to some readers. Additionally, the writing style, though eloquent and evocative, may come across as slightly dated for modern readers.

Overall, Foul Play is a remarkable literary work that transcends the boundaries of a simple murder mystery. Charles Reade's insightful exploration of societal issues, combined with his deft storytelling and memorable characters, make this novel a must-read for any lover of historical fiction or crime dramas. It is an immersive and thought-provoking journey that will leave readers pondering the depths of human nature long after the final page has been turned.

First Page:

[Transcriber's note: Italics are indicated by the underscore character ( ). Accent marks are ignored.]



Charles Reade and Dion Boucicault


THERE are places which appear, at first sight, inaccessible to romance; and such a place was Mr. Wardlaw's dining room in Russell Square. It was very large, had sickly green walls, picked out with aldermen, full length; heavy maroon curtains; mahogany chairs; a turkey carpet an inch thick: and was lighted with wax candles only.

In the center, bristling and gleaming with silver and glass, was a round table, at which fourteen could have dined comfortably; and at opposite sides of this table sat two gentlemen, who looked as neat, grave, precise, and unromantic, as the place: Merchant Wardlaw, and his son.

Wardlaw senior was an elderly man, tall, thin, iron gray, with a round head, a short, thick neck, a good, brown eye, a square jowl that betokened resolution, and a complexion so sallow as to be almost cadaverous. Hard as iron: but a certain stiff dignity and respectability sat upon him, and became him.

Arthur Wardlaw resembled his father in figure, but his mother in face. He had, and has, hay colored hair, a forehead singularly white and delicate, pale blue eyes, largish ears, finely chiseled features, the under lip much shorter than the upper; his chin oval and pretty, but somewhat receding; his complexion beautiful... Continue reading book >>

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