19 NOVEMBER 1881, Page 24

Julian Karslake's Secret. By Mrs. John H. Needell. (Smith, Elder,

and Co.)—Julian Karslake's Secret is a book that promises more than it performs. The first volume is the best, and the last is the worst. The opening incidents have a freshness which is not sustained as the story goes on, and the plot, that interests in the beginning, ends with becoming improbable and stagey. The main fault of the book, how- ever, is that the author is unequal to the task she has set herself. She is too ambitions for her present powers. If tragedy is at- tempted—and although the story ends well, it is tragic in much of its purport—there must be some corresponding power of depicting it, to make it anything but a failure. To work out such a plot as that of Julian Kargake's Secret requires time and thought, and while an impression of hurry is left by the second and third volumes, the thought given is evidently not of the quality that is required to conceive and carry out characters of the type chosen by Mrs. Needell. Characters in fiction can only speak to the reader through the author. It is no blame to Mrs. Needell, if she does not attain to the heroic height ; but it is advisable, especially in first or early work, to aim below rather than above the powers of production. The story is written with sufficient vigour to make it very readable, and if a lower flight is taken, another attempt will probably be far more successful. In this case, we should suggest pruning the style

of a certain suspicion of vulgarity, which the story itself is far from possessing.