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The Law and the Lady
Wilkie Collins
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The Law and the Lady

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,774 Ratings  ·  146 Reviews
The Law and the Lady is a classic mystery novel written by Wilkie Collins and first published in 1875. Valeria Woodville's first act as a married woman is to sign her name in the marriage register incorrectly, and this slip is followed by the gradual disclosure of a series of secrets about her husband's earlier life, each of which leads on to another set of questions and e ...more
Nook, 0 pages
Published September 23rd 2011 by United Holdings Group (first published 1875)
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Natalie Monroe
3.5 stars

I am mildly stunned at how much I enjoyed this. Me and Victorian novels don't have the easiest relationship. But this was easy to read and the mystery of whodunnit kept me turning pages. (Pretty peeved the introduction spoiled it for me)

Then again, it's lowbrow literature and (insert rambling critics' rant here). Whatevas, I'm trash for a good book. Keep me entertained and we'll get along splendidly.
Bona fide Victorian melodrama! Lady detective! Cold case! Occasional Scottish legal theory!

There are surprisingly many things in law that I have come across that make people who have not been brought up accepting them want to build a nuclear bunker and hide for eternity the moment they understand what they're really looking at. In this category I include things like English defamation law, the fact that we quietly haven't had habeus corpus in the UK for about the last decade (no really, I promis
Dec 28, 2016 Issicratea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 1800-1900
The Law and the Lady was my fifth venture into the world of Victorian sensation fiction, following Collins’s Basil and The Dead Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley's Secret, and Thomas Hardy’s Desperate Remedies. It is proving a richly rewarding inquiry, in all kinds of ways, even though the literary quality of these works has been mixed.

The Law and the Lady is one of the less inspiring of these works, from a stylistic point of view, along with Lady Audley’s Secret. It is distinctly le
Anna Kļaviņa

The Law and the Lady is first Collins's book that I didn't enjoy.

I don't mind the not so well fleshed second characters and I'm ready to ignore all coincidences & lack of reason in characters but this book has not aged well.

However, the main character, while is her time product, is surprisingly strong.

Quality-wise, it is one of the most ambiguous books I have ever read. You know that it is always easier to follow the plot lines of Wilkie Colliens than any of his contemporaries because Dickens is verbose, Bronte is coldly reserved with the hidden passion inside, and Gaskell is somewhat academic. These contemporaries have distinct styles, and Collins's is the most engaging.
On the other hand, he is also somewhat simplistic and rustic. And if his two most-famous oeuvres, The Woman in White and T
Every time I read a book by Wilkie Collins, I am struck by the sensation that if we had lived in the same age and time, we could have been good friends.
His style of writing is clear and character portrayal is always fascinating. His language is simple and honest and his narrative is captivating.
This is however not one of his best mysteries and the end leaves me slightly disappointed.
The moral of the story has not aged as gracefully as his writing and I am torn as to wether I would recommend the
Lindsey Strachan
I am a big fan of Wilkie Collin's work in general. He is certainly the premier writer of "suspense" novels in my opinion, and The Law and the Lady is another example of his usual type of fare. Valeria Woodville discovers her husband has been tried for the murder by poisoning of his first wife, was found "Not proven" in a Scottish court and sets out to prove his innocence of the charge and reassert her husband's good name. Being Collins, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way but it w ...more
Sep 18, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 3Ms, Hannah, Misfit, Kim
Free download available at Gutenberg Project

The audio version can be found at LibriVox

See The Readers Review: Literature from 1800 to 1910 discussion for the reading schedule for this book.

Part I

Feb. 1-7: Chapters 1-14

Part 2

Feb. 8-14: Capaters 15-29
Feb. 15-21: Chapters 30-44
Feb. 22-28: Chapters 45-50

IN offering this book to you, I have no Preface to write. I have only to request that you will bear in mind certain established truths, which occasionally escape your memo
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This sensation novel is the story of Valeria Brinton's quest to prove her husband's innocence. She refuses to resign herself to the 'Scotch Verdict' as her husband and others have done. Acting on her convictions and contrary to her friends advice, she sets out in search of the truth (with help from her old and trusted friend Mr. Benjamin and also from her mother-in- law). Valeria is a strong minded woman and in many respects a character whom people today can relate to. The book, i felt, had more ...more
“Never is a long day.”

Published in 1875, this tale of detection must be judged by the standards of both today and 140 years ago. A contemporary and friend of Charles Dickens, Collins could only write of the society and time in which he lived. The Lady and the Law reflects Victorian attitudes towards gender roles, propriety and money. Collins exposes the deficiencies of stereotypes about Scots and women, even as he exploits them. His Woman in White (1859) is considered one of the first mystery no
May 06, 2013 Marcie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Law and the Lady wears its time period on its (large muttonchop) sleeves. That’s not necessarily a put-down (there were times I relished in how very Victorian this book was), but this book didn’t age particularly well.

Most of the characters weren’t very well fleshed out. Collins relies on caricature to make up most of the secondary characters. We have the thrifty Scottish lawyer; the Dandy; the reliable former retainer; the deformed man who is also possibly deranged; and his Igor-like, oddly
Feb 17, 2009 Kirsti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Ultra-dramatic yarn involving murder, injustice, secrets, lies, poison, deformity, insanity, and chambermaids. Entertaining if you like that sort of thing, which I do . . . though I almost stopped reading when I realized that the main characters are named Valeria, Eustace, and Miserrimus.

If you haven't read Collins's The Woman in White, I'd go with that first. This is fun but not nearly as intriguing.

Some of my favorite excerpts from The Law and the Lady are below.

Only give a woman love, and the
Collins writes like low-rent Dickens crossed with Trollop. He loves creating quirky characters and writing satirically and judgementally about them. He is addicted to unnecessary hystrionics and suspense--an entire chapter will just be one character warning another of the SHOCKING news they are about to impart. Then, just as they are finally going to tell the truth, the chapter ends. Even worse, the Shocking Truth is always something completely petty and anticlimatic.

The story is told by Valeria
Jun 09, 2016 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps no author can claim such a golden decade of novel writing in the 19C as Wilkie Collins. In the 1860's Collins published The Woman in White (1860), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). There is no more than a flat chance that he could repeat himself, and, indeed, he did not. The Law and the Lady, published in 1875, does not reach the standard of its predecessors of the 1860's; nevertheless, The Law and the Lady is an important book for many reasons and deserves to be ...more
James Barnard
Proof once again that there’s more to the Victorian novel than Charles Dickens.

Wilkie Collins’ masterpieces are generally considered to be ‘The Moonstone’ and ‘The Woman in White’. ‘The Law and the Lady’ tends to be overlooked, as is often the case for resolutely genre-specific books, even if, here, the genre itself (detective fiction) was in its infancy and would in many ways grow around these superb foundations. It’s a form of cultural snobbery really, which is a shame because I actually can’t
Mar 21, 2013 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Full review here)

This book was a nice change of pace, as it's been a while since I read a classic. I wish I could say this was more satisfying than it was, but still, I generally enjoyed it. The first half was definitely my favorite part--it was compelling and mysterious. The second half started to drag, partly because I figured things out so far ahead of the characters (it would be interesting to know if many contemporary readers solved the mystery early or if this is just a byproduct of livin
Aug 19, 2010 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Wilkie Collins' Moonstone and Woman in White, so I picked up this lesser-known book by him. I enjoyed this mystery written in 1875 in which the woman takes the initiative and solves the mystery. This book has the most eccentric character EVER (Dexter) but I love Collins' writing and thoroughly enjoyed this book.


"Could a man who was hopelessly and entirely wicked, have inspired such devoted attachment to him as Dexter had inspired in the faithful woman who had just left me... Who c
Jan 29, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a great page-turner, and my only complaint would be that while the character of Misserimus Dexter was extremely well filled out, the character of Eustace left me somewhat underwhelmed. He seemed lackluster and spineless to me and that made it slightly less believable that Valeria would go to such lengths to prove him innocent. Maybe if more time had been spent building his strength of character, such as when he married his first wife in order to clear his name, I would ha ...more
Robert burke
Sep 18, 2016 Robert burke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"He caught my hand in his, and devoured it with kisses. His lips burnt me like fire. He twisted himself suddenly in the chair and wound his arm around my waist. In the terror and indignation of the moment, vainly struggling with him, I cried out for help."
Just married Valeria Woodville learns her husband is hiding a secret about his first wife. She is determined to find out why he married her under a false name and what is his secret. She takes the law in her own hands and follow clues, dead end
Just an ok book. It started right and grew progressively boring for me. I wonder why.... Valeria sounded so annoyingly confident, the kind of confidence the misguided have. The husband didn't sound as if he was deserved to be loved. The dynamic Dexter exhausted me with his emotion and imagination. The only bonus point I could give is that Collins could incorporate a trial report without boring me death. Believe it's not a small accomplishment. Otherwise I totally skipped a thick part of it and j ...more
Mar 10, 2017 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Law and the Lady may not be the most attention-grabbing of titles, but it does sum up two of the regular themes that we find in the books of Wilkie Collins. Indeed the title would have been equally appropriate if Collins had used it for The Woman in White, or for a chapter in The Moonstone. Both those books feature a heroine who is being pursued by a wealthy suitor whose romantic interest is determined by how certain he is of using the law to lay his hands on her money.

In the case of The Law
Dec 12, 2016 Ilaria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Date a una donna un po' d'amore e non c'è niente che non sarà disposta ad affrontare e soffrire."

La Legge e la Signora è l'ultimo romanzo di Wilkie Collins ripubblicato dalla Fazi Editore che ormai ci ha abituato a queste meravigliose e curatissime edizioni.
In questo romanzo troviamo una donna come protagonista alle prese con un mistero da risolvere. Valeria è una giovane donna di buona famiglia, si è appena sposata con Eustace Woodville ma il suo matrimonio è iniziato sotto cattivi auspici. Du
This was quite the book although not quite at the same level as his The Woman in White.

I do enjoy a nice dark, brooding-like beginning where you know something is just not right but it is initially difficult to pinpoint what exactly that 'something' is all about.

Valeria is a bride-to-be who marries Eustace Woodville despite warnings from her family and friends. There are some odd exchanges at the beginning of this marriage between the two. It made me wonder what drove her to marry Eustace despi
Oct 12, 2012 April rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Law and the Lady" has been touted as the first full-length novel featuring a female detective which was a contributing factor in my picking up this book. It was a slow read for me and I was put off a bit by some of the outlandish and implausible situations protrayed but I suppose that was considered typical writing for that time period. The novel does give a good impression of the type of Victorian ideals held at the time regarding men and women. Even though Valeria had her bouts of faintin ...more
Reading Hardy's Desperate Remedies put me in the mood for sensation novels, so of course I went to Wilkie Collins; this is the last of his books I own and hadn't read. Collins chooses a woman for his protagonist, Valeria Woodville, who marries and then finds out that her husband was tried and not found innocent (the Scottish court's verdict was "not proven") of poisoning his first wife. When her husband deserts her because he can't stand the shame of her knowing about his past, she determines to ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved The Woman in White, No Name, and Armadale, and though I enjoyed many aspects of The Law and the Lady, I found it to be more flawed and outdated than the others. It was interesting to read this book, feeling that the suspense and twists and turns were lacking, but also with the realization that Collins essentially invented the "whodunit" genre. He certainly can't be faulted for not adhering to 21st century standards of a genre he invented. In any case, I found Valeria to be an intriguing ...more
Elena T.
Oct 09, 2016 Elena T. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wilkie ❤ Collins e la nuova edizione Fazi, uscita lo scorso 6 Ottobre.

In primis, “La legge e la Signora” è una vera detective story, con vividi elementi del romanzo d’epoca intrisi del consueto giallo.

Uscito nel 1875, è la storia di Valeria Brinton, moglie di Eustace Woodville che, d’improvviso scopre che il marito l’ha sposata sotto falso nome (sì, qui fa molto “Armadale”).. questo perché anni prima è stato processato per l’omicidio della prima moglie, ma assolto per mancanza di prove.

Sarà e
Gwen Hyman
Feb 20, 2009 Gwen Hyman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 19th-century
So the pivot in this story is a legless old-money maniac who thunders up and down his crumbling mansion pretending to be Napoleon, cooks truffles in port wine in a doll's kitchen that also houses the skin of a tanned aristocrat, and sometimes hops about on his hands in a game he calls "Dexter's Leapfrog." He's at the center of a strange sort of murder mystery involving marriage under an assumed name, arsenic, thwarted love, and many, many other wonderful things. IMHO, cocaine was very very good ...more
Jan 23, 2013 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe my expectations were high after reading A Woman in White, but I found the plot in this book by Mr. Collins to be predictable and the pace slow and plodding. There were also characters that disturbed me and ideas that were somewhat offensive. Again, my expectations were very high after my last outing with Mr. Collins but there was also a lot of promise in this book in the beginning that it was hard to read when Mr. Collins made a muddle of it in the latter half. The ending was such a disapp ...more
Another enjoyable mystery by Wilkie Collins. After reading several of his books I can say that his style of writing is easily read, his main characters well developed, and his stories full of suspense. What I haven't figured out yet is why it takes me so long to get through them! With all the positives I have just mentioned, I still find myself eager to finish when I'm only half way through the book. Perhaps the suspense is just too drawn out for my taste, I don't know.
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  • Aurora Floyd
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A close friend of Charles Dickens' from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William "Wilkie" Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for fifty years. Most of ...more
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“Are you free of each other, pretty Mrs. Valeria, by common consent of both parties?” 1 likes
“Only give a woman love, and there is nothing she will not venture, suffer, and do.” 0 likes
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