By the time The Law and the Lady appeared in 1875, The Woman in White and The Moonstone had already established Collins as the leading practitioner of "sensation fiction". The Law and the Lady builds on this tradition by introducing one of English literature's earliest women detectives, Valeria Woodville, who investigates the murder of her husband's first wife, in the attempt to prove him guiltless. Rich in plot and characters, including the extraordinary "man machine" Miserrimus Dexter and his female cousin "Ariel", the novel exposes the repression of Victorian domestic life and marriage. "The spectacle of a mental breakdown...provides the best suspense of the novel," writes David Skilton. "After Freud and R.D. Laing modern readers assume they know the answer, are fascinated to witness the way in which the nineteenth century will solve a twentieth century problem."