on 20 May 2002
This book, originally serialised in a Victorian weekly magazine, has all the elements of a gothic soap opera. James Bond would be disappointed at the lack of explicit sex and violence, but the pace and intrigue is all there. Each chapter leaves you with a cliff-hanging discovery as the heroine, Valeria, battles against the odds and despite any advice, to clear her husband's name from what she believe to be a miscarriage of justice.
So who committed the crime? Was it the jealous widow? Or the demented, deformed friend? Or could it have been an accident? Or - it must be considered - was it her husband after all?
And why are so many people determined to dissuade her from her task? As she delves into the past, she uncovers the factors which in each individual have contributed to the tragedy: mis-placed love, honour, indiscretion, vanity, self-interest - and at the end is left with the problem of what to do with the information.
Wilkie Collins is widely regarded as the inventor of the detective novel, and although "The Law and the Lady" is a book of its era, it is a very enjoyable read.
I have always been a huge fan of Wilkie Collins; at this time of year there is nothing nicer than settling down with `The Woman in White' or `The Moonstone.' You'll understand then, that I have been saving `The Law and the Lady' and have been really looking forward to it and I had high expectations.
Valeria marries Eustace Woodville against the wishes of both their families, and it soon comes to light that her husband has a dark secret; he was accused of poisoning his first wife! Valeria never doubts her husband's innocence (unlike the Scottish Court who gave the case a verdict of `not proven') and sets out to prove he didn't kill her. After reading the Trial Valeria contacts Misserimus Dexter, a friend of her husband's, in order to see if he can help her. Dexter is probably Collin's most bizarre and outlandish character, a man in a wheelchair who suffers from delusions. Will she ever discover who killed Catherine?
As this novel was written in Victorian times don't expect something that is politically correct. For a modern readership, the portrayal of disability can at times be difficult to stomach. I also have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed; the plot isn't as intricate and characters aren't as interesting or complex as in his other novels. This is one for real fans. If you want to read Collins at his best, I'd advise you to look to his other novels.