Wilkie Collins' earliest career attempt -- to read for the bar -- influenced much of his later work, and he was particularly interested in the marriage, divorce, and property laws of England and Scotland. The mysteries and miseries surrounding these laws serve as plot-points in many of his novels, including "The Moonstone" and "The Law and the Lady."
In "The Law and the Lady" (first published in 1875), Valeria Brinton marries Eustace Woodville despite objections from Woodville's family. Just a few days after the wedding, incidents lead Valeria to suspect her husband is hiding a dark secret in his past, and she discovers that he has been using a false name. He refuses to discuss it, leading them to curtail their honeymoon and return to London. There, Valeria learns that he was on trial for his first wife's murder by poisoning with arsenic. He was tried in a Scottish court, and the verdict of "Not Proven" (rather than "not guilty") implied his guilt -- but without enough proof for a jury to convict him.
Valeria sets out to save their happiness by proving her husband innocent of the crime. In her quest, she comes across the disabled character Miserrimus Dexter, a fascinating but mentally unstable genius, and his devoted female cousin, Ariel. Dexter will prove crucial to uncovering the disturbing truth behind the mysterious death.