It took me forever to read this book. Normally I love a good Wilkie Collins novel, so I’m surprised it took me so long to finish it. Though I had heard the novels he wrote after his critique partner Charles Dickens died weren’t up to the same standard as novels like ‘The Woman in White‘ were.
The set up to ‘The Law and the Lady‘ was slow, but once the reveal of Valeria’s husband’s secret comes to light it had all the promise that Collins’ other novels have. Yet it kind of stagnated pretty soon after. Eustace’s refusal to even listen to what Valeria had to say about his trial really pissed me off. You would have been able to understand his motivation if she’d agreed with the suspicion that he had murdered his first wife, but she blatantly cared for and believed him so what was the point in this??
Ugh. The husband annoyed me so much. Just the shitty way he treated Valeria was so annoying. From the way he treated her after she said she was going to get the verdict overturned, I found it hard to see what she was fighting for in their relationship. The mystery was intriguing, and the whole concept of the Scottish verdict a little confusing – surely if they couldn’t prove he was guilty then it’s a not guilty verdict? Though it was more Eustace’s attitude to Valeria that really put me off the plot.
Then we get on to the Dexter character. At first he was intriguing, and then gradually became more and more annoying. Though it was his description that bothered me more than anything. At first I was quite interested in the fact that Collins had included a disabled character, as this seemed quite a progressive thing for someone from his era to include in their writing – not to mention the fact that the main protagonist was a woman starring in a detective story, which is certainly damn well progressive for the time. Though this went downhill quite fast – Collins seemed to focus on making Dexter’s personality to be as weird and creepy as possible. He couldn’t focus on making a character with a disability a normal thing, he had to exaggerate the weird aspects of his character such as the crawling around on his hands and the very strange dialogue – it just took the focus away from the main plot point of trying to prove Eustace as innocent. Plus I didn’t really understand what the correlation between Dexter’s disability and madness was – Collins seemed to be doing this on purpose to make the reader even more disgusted with Dexter than they would have been just with his disability. It was bizarre and didn’t add to the overall narrative.
The ending was good because I didn’t see that plot twist coming, but it was completely dampened by everything else that had happened up until this point. Plus it was annoying how much of a wet lettuce Valeria was being after her husband effectively left her, and then suddenly he’d changed his mind?? Ugh. It just annoyed me and spoiled any good I’d found in the narrative, which was a real shame because I’ve loved all of the other novels I’ve read by him. Collins got his point about the Scottish verdict across very well – that someone’s reputation is still tarnished even when they’ve not been proved guilty of a crime – but it was ruined by all the other things that annoyed me about this novel.
I’d give it a 3/5 because the overall writing was good, but the plot was lacking in comparison to some of his other novels I’ve read and was quite disappointing.