This surprisingly formulaic sequel to The Detective and Mr. Dickens (1990) gets off to a brisk start with that staple of Victorian fiction, coitus interruptus, as a knock on the door brings Wilkie Collins and his sluttish doxy, Irish Meg, news that amiable lowlife Tally Ho Thompson has been arrested for two murders in a house he insists he'd been paid to break into by actor Dickie Dunn. There's no lack of melodramatic incident here--Dickens and Collins, who continues as his insultingly dense Watson, help Thompson break out of Newgate; witness the former's confrontations with Dunn (at swords' points) and with widower/whoremaster Dr. William Palmer (a horse race that turns into a screaming bout); and take time out (at least Collins does) for more depraved lust. But the whole affair--tricked out with cameos by Richard Burton, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the great snowstorm of 1852--is curiously lightweight, with too many edifying footnotes and too little real mystery or suspense. Mildly diverting Victorian tosh. More on the way.