Book Review: The Lady and the Law by Wilkie Collins (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Lady and the Law by Wilkie Collins

Four Stars out of Five

“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 novels.

A well-written, engaging story. Since the detective novel was just emerging, Collins’ pioneering use of court records, cross-examination, and digging through waste heaps–not to mention red herrings, foreshadowing and misdirection–established what are now clichés. His overuse of looking glasses (mirrors) also anticipates a century of romances.

“None so blind as those who won’t see” sounds current, but it actually was used by Matthew Henry almost 200 years before Collins. Presumably it was a common English saying in Collins’ day.

(Typical of, this text is clean of typographical errors which mar so many classics republished as ebooks.)