The Mysterious Lady Law by Robert Appleton has been one of those books that’s always looked interesting every time I’ve seen it mentioned. I’ve just never had an excuse to read it until now. As I started to read Mr. Appleton’s latest steampunk story, Prehistoric Clock, I had this niggling thought that Clock and Lady Law might be set in the same universe. That was all the excuse I needed and it was a pretty good excuse. The Mysterious Lady Law turned out to be a pretty good story, too.
The story is about one woman’s meteoric rise and catastrophic fall. It begins at the ceremony where Harriet Law receives her honors, and is made Lady Law. With the assistance of Mr. Horace Holly, Lady Law spectacularly foils an assassination attempt against Queen Victoria. But all is not as it seems.
In his younger years, Mr. Holly was an adventurer, just like the more celebrated Allan Quatermain. Even more interesting, Mr. Holly’s assistant Josh is missing. And Josh has been studying the houses in Lady Law’s neighborhood for emissions of a strange substance known as psammeticum. Whatever this energy is, some house on Lady Law’s street is sending out a lot of it.
A girl named Georgina is brutally murdered the night of Lady Law’s honors. Lady Law promises Georgy’s sister, Julia, that she will personally find justice for Julia. What Lady Law doesn’t say is that she knew Georgy herself because Georgy was her housecleaner. And Georgy saw too much.
Julia wants justice for her sister. The police want to know how Lady Law always manages to get one step ahead of them. The police sergeant who is handling Julia’s case wants to know why Lady Law wouldn’t help him find out who murdered his wife several years ago. But mostly, he wants to keep Julia safe. And Julia, she thinks Lady Law is a little too good to be true.
So when Horace Holly discovers that Lady Law is trying to throw all the suspicion for Georgy’s murder onto his assistant Josh, Holly, Julia and Sergeant Al Grant set Lady Law up for a fall. Finding out what those psammeticum emissions were all about? Well that turned out to be the biggest surprise of all.
Escape Rating C+: I enjoyed this story, but I wanted to know more about this particular steampunk London. The problem I usually have with the very short novellas is that there just isn’t enough space to explain how we got where we are. The good ones like Lady Law tease me too much.
Characters and agencies from Lady Law do appear in Prehistoric Clock. It’s definitely the same world, so I’m glad I read Lady Law. I’m hoping that between the two stories I’ll see enough of the underpinnings of Mr. Appleton’s steampunk world to satisfy my cravings.