Barrister Robert Audley is suspicious. His friend George Talboys recently returned a rich man from the goldfields of colonial Australia but is shattered to find that the wife he left behind has died. Now George has vanished, leaving only a note saying that he's returned to Australia. Fearing foul play, Robert attempts an investigation into his friend's sudden disappearance but his every move is hampered by his uncle's lovely young bride, Lady Audley, whose placid, doll-like exterior conceals a secret double life of intrigue, madness, and murder.
This 1862 "sensation novel," a nineteenth-century equivalent to today's thrillers, established Mary Elizabeth Braddon as the chief rival of the genre's master, Wilkie Collins. Inspired by a real-life murder, Braddon's romantic melodrama challenges Victorian notions of femininity and offers intriguing insights into the era's anxieties about social rank and identity. It's also a fast-paced, deftly plotted detective story that offers vivid glimpses of life among the English gentry during a bygone age.