The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton
In a time of grand airships and steam-powered cars, the death of a penniless young maid will hardly make the front page. But part-time airship waitress and music hall dancer Julia Bairstow is shattered by her sister’s murder. When Lady Law, the most notorious private detective in Britain, offers to investigate the case pro bono, Julia jumps at the chance-even against the advice of Constable Al Grant, who takes her protection surprisingly to heart.
Lady Law puts Scotland Yard to shame. She’s apprehended Jack the Ripper and solved countless other cold-case crimes. No one knows how she does it, but it’s brought her fortune, renown and even a title. But is she really what she claims to be-a genius at deducting? Or is Al right and she is not be trusted?
Julia is determined to find out the truth, even if it means turning sleuth herself-and turning the tables on Lady Law…
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I was very excited to read The Mysterious Lady Law. It sounded like a cool mix of steampunk, mystery, and romance, and I was stoked to give Robert Appleton a try. Something you need to know up front: this is a novella, not a novel.
Overall, I feel very ambivalent about The Mysterious Lady Law. I really liked the set up, particularly the first chapter with the titular Lady Law and Holly, but the story built up and up and then let me down. This doesn’t mean I have only negative feelings — just that I found the novella uneven. I really enjoyed parts of the story, like Julia’s relationship with Constable Al Grant and all of the scenes with Holly, but I found the resolution a little rushed and somewhat forced. The reason why Lady Law has such a good track record is a fun explanation but there were definitely aspects of the climax that left me underwhelmed. On the other hand, though, Robert Appleton does a great job of describing the novella’s setting with a lot of vivid imagery and strong prose so I’m happy that I gave The Mysterious Lady Law a shot.