This story features probably the first female detective and is a great read with lots of tension-building and mysteries. The heroine is Valeria Woodville who marries Eustace but becomes aware that there are mysteries and secrets from his early life. The reader discovers inconsistencies and puzzles and information along with Valeria, and it is a very exciting journey full of twists and turns.

I firstly loved the early descriptions of Valeria’s feelings for Eustace when they first meet and then when they declare their love for each other and are planning their wedding; in many ways this is quite a romantic novel which isn’t really what I expect from Collins and he does it very well. I particularly found the following line very prophetic and accurate, ‘only give a woman love, and there is nothing she will not venture, suffer, and do’.

I think the time the book is set in adds a great deal to the story and makes the discovery of the mystery more effective; today women are more equal and can demand to have questions answered, but then they had to be submissive and not question male authority, and although Valeria had her suspicions of her husband she couldn’t demand answers from him and she couldn’t threaten to leave him or even couldn’t go anywhere she chose to pursue her enquiries as women couldn’t venture unaccompanied.

Collins describes and portrays the characters so well that I instantly feel I like and support Valeria rather than feeling she is perhaps foolish or indecisive, and we also see Eustace through Valeria’s eyes so he (at least at the beginning of the novel) doesn’t seem to us as an out-and-out villain (like the Count in The Woman in White) but seems a kindly gentleman we want to believe. The character of Misserimus Dexter is fascinating and strange; I pity him but am also repulsed and made to feel very uncomfortable by him.

Collins builds the tension so beautifully; a perfect example being the scenes where Valeria is searching (with his permission) Major Fitz-David’s room for a clue to her husband’s mystery but with no idea of what she’s actually looking for, this is beautifully done with her searching very slowly and gradually and listing each item she finds, and this slow pace works well to build up the tension. The little snippets that Collins drops throughout the novel are also created beautifully, giving a tantalising hint of more secrets to come; this is particularly the case with how Eustace’s past and present marriages are constantly interwoven throughout the story with knowledge gained from one leading to the revealing of clues and behaviour in the other.

As mentioned before, the novel is interesting in the fact it is a female detective; quite ground-breaking and radical for that time I’d have thought. Collins’ ability to write the novel in the voice of a woman is also admirable as I’d imagine this would have been a challenge for him.

The Appendixes and Notes section in the edition I read (Oxford World’s Classics) are very interesting, particularly about The Graphic (where the story was serialised) altering a particular section, and Collins’ response to this.

As always with a Wilkie Collins novel, you are guaranteed a great read with this story.

The Law and the Lady (Paperback)

By (author): Wilkie Collins

Title: Law and the Lady <>Binding: Paperback <>Author: Collins, Wilkie <>Publisher: OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS
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