“Foul deeds have been done under the most hospitable roofs, terrible crimes have been committed amid the fairest scenes… I believe that we may look into the smiling face of a murderer, and admire its tranquil beauty” (Braddon, 143-144).
This passage comes from an exchange between Robert Audley and Lady Audley during an unexpected visit she makes to the inn. Robert demonstrates his role as the detective, suspecting that his dear friend, George Talboys, has been murdered, possibly in an unexpected place: the domestic home. Robert emphasizes the ironic situation of a horrid event occurring in a seemingly safe place. He explains that “foul deeds” and “terrible crimes” have taken place “under the most hospitable roofs” and “amid the fairest scenes.” The contrast between the harmful acts and peaceful environments implies the greater theme of false appearances throughout the novel. Furthermore, Robert detects false appearances in people, specifically murderers. He states, “I believe that we may look into the smiling face of a murderer, and admire its tranquil beauty.” He reveals his beliefs that a calm and appealing exterior, in this case a “smiling face,” may belie an ugly and dangerous truth, which potentially foreshadows that one or more of the characters in the novel will be discovered to possess a shameful secret or mad behavior. The barrister acknowledges that “we” are oblivious to the dark secrets and crimes that are occurring, suggesting that the characters are being deceived by a harmless appearing “atmosphere,” a house, or another character in the novel. However, because the conversation is between Robert and Lady Audley, the barrister may be hinting that Lucy, herself, is the one who’s innocent appearance is concealing a dreadful secret.