Book Review: “The Law and the Lady” by Wilkie Collins


This is where the title of this blog comes from btw 😀

I’ve been a fan of “The Woman in White” and “The Moonstone” for a long time now and I knew that Wilkie Collins had quite a bit of writing experience under his belt; however, I haven’t really looked into his works until now. As most of you know, classic literature is free to buy on Amazon for Kindle, so I have acquired quite a few of his works over the past month. The title of “The Law and the Lady” made me believe it was a great place to start due to my future profession.

The protagonist of the book is a recently married Valeria who is known to be one of the first literary female detectives. She is very much in love with her new husband Eustace who, however, seems to be pulling away from her from the very first week of their marriage. When she decides to investigate the matter, she stumbled upon a terrible secret from his past – he has been suspected and tried for allegedly murdering his first wife. According to the Scottish law of the time, a man could be either held to be guilty or not guilty of his crime; however, there was also a possibility of the third verdict – crime not proven, which does not exist in English law. When Valeria discovers that the latter verdict was the outcome of Eustace’s case, she decides to prove his innocence because she firmly believes that he did not commit the crime. She chooses to start her investigation by talking to the key witness, a crippled misogynystic madman named Misserimus Dexter. With somewhat questionable help from him, her mother-in-law, her husband’s friends and their lawyer, she slowly uncovers the truth.

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Before you tell me that Wilkie Collins is not, in fact, Jane Austen, I would just like to say that I feel that the aforementioned quote is ironically applicable to this wonderful piece of detective fiction. Eustace is a rich man, no doubt about that. However, I feel that he is also in possession of quite a lot of emotional baggage, which is exactly what triggers the plot of the novel. Overall, I’d say that one should be familiar with at least one other work of Wilkie Collins before getting their hands on this one (my personal recommendation is “The Woman in White”), because he has a very distinct style of writing and certain nuances of the law-related parts of the novel may not be as clear to an unenlightened reader. It is an interesting Victorian murder mystery novel, although I must say I figured out the ending halfway through the book. If you like strong, complex characters, Sherlock Holmes and murder mysteries, this little gem is for you. I give it a solid 8/10.

Favourite character and why:

Valeria, and this is why: nowadays, there is a huge debate about what kind of a female character can be considered a “strong female character”. Personally, I wholeheartedly disagree with the term and believe that if a character is well-written and not one-dimensional or reduced to some kind of a “trope”, e.g. damsel in distress, they can be considered a “strong character”, and they don’t necessarily have to be experts at shooting a gun or martial arts. If they are complex and make their own decisions, I consider them strong. Valeria’s actions may be driven by the love she has for her husband, but she makes her own choices during the investigation. Her mother-in-law, her husband’s friends and her lawyer keep telling her to step back and forget all about the “not proven’ verdict; however, she continues to pursue the investigation and eventually, her actions ensure a happy ending for both her and Eustace (I won’t say anything else because I don’t want to spoil the plot too much). She is also one of the most self-deprecatng characters I’ve ever come across; however, it is not annoying and does not feel like she is an attention-seeker, which was one of the many problems I’ve had with a certain infamous novel about vampires that romanticises abusive relationships.

Most relatable character and why:

I felt that due to my life experiences, I could relate to both Valeria and Eustace in several different ways (kudos to Mr Collins’ ability to write multi-dimensional characters). Eustace is an interesting and complex character – some may say that his attitude and behaviour towards his wife at the start of the novel are those of a weak and exasperating man, but I think that they are realistic. I have come across several relationships in which one partner decides to end the relationship because he or she is burdened by something in their past or considers themselves not being worthy of their other half and wants to let them go “for their own good”. I personally strongly disagree with the concept of “deserving someone” or “being worthy of someone”, but unfortunately, this kind of thing prevails in many relationships.
Regarding me being able to relate to Valeria, I feel that I can do so in a way that I like to believe I am also the type of person who is not afraid to back down from a challenge and I very rarely give up on something I set my mind on.

Character who gets the most development:


Favourite relationship:

Valeria and her mother-in-law

Favourite quotes; 

“Personally and professionally, I am going to trust you – though I am a Scotchman and a lawyer.”
“I don’t scruple to say that I was thoroughly disgusted with her. When a woman sells herself to a man, that vile bargain is none the less infamous (to my mind) because it happens to be made under the sanction of the Church and the Law”


Valeria – Anne Hathaway
Eustace – Tom Hiddleston
Dexter – Anthony Hopkins
Mr Playmore – Gabriel Macht
Catherine McCallan – Kathy Bates


You might like “The Law and the Lady” if you liked:
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte;
“Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy;

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