Rudolf Lehmann, (William) Wilkie Collins, 1880; National Portrait Gallery, London

There is nothing like a good read. And Wilkie Collins was the master of the Victorian page-turner, the long, heavily plotted “sensation novel” that revealed the secrets lurking beneath the surface of seemingly placid households, each chapter irresistibly leading to the next. In the words of a contemporary critic, “Nobody leaves one of his tales unfinished.” Collins was the ultimate craftsman of the controlled ratcheting of suspense and surprise. Who can ever forget the build-up to Walter Hartwright&rsqu ...