Oct 6, 2010

Book Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn (book 1 of 4 in Lady Julia Grey series)
Mass Market Paperback, 511 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Mira (first published 2006)
Purchased for my own enjoyment
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars of Five


"Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."



These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.


Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.


Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

This is an amusing mystery genre story that is set in Victorian England. Lady Julia Grey is a very likable character who winds up with the mystery of her husband's death on her conscience, although the esteemed family doctor ruled Edward's death as a natural one. When Julia finds evidence to the contrary, she partners with Nicholas Brisbane to discover the murderer. The developments of their findings are not the only subject at hand, as Julia comes to grips with her new widowed state and the confused relationship with Brisbane; of which you are just waiting for it to turn romantic.

One of the best parts of the story was the nature of Lady Julia's own family and her servants. She is one of many siblings who are all a wonderfully eclectic group. We've got a lesbian in the family as well as an aunt who is affectionately called "The Ghoul". The Queen's raven was stolen and winds up at Lady Julia's house as winnings at a card game of the younger brother. Among several intriguing themes are the darkness of gypsies and the taint of prostitution which overshadow the case. I enjoyed that there was an unabashed style of wit throughout the story and that there was quite a blend of scandals in the story.

Raybourn's writing style quickly drew me into Lady Julia's world, and the fact that she is a native Texan could have blown me over with a feather. There was no trace of a southern attitude and I would have wagered the author had to have been a born and bred Englishwoman. I must say that the last half of the book moved quicker than the first and may have even been a bit predictable, but it was an enjoyment in entirety for me. I think readers who enjoy Georgette Heyer's Regency mysteries would also enjoy this Victorian mystery as they mirror the same tone and pace, though Raybourn's writing exudes more of a modern stance. Upon finishing this book I immediately set about to read book two in the Lady Julia Grey mystery series, Silent in the Sanctuary. Book three is Silent in the Moor, and book four, Dark Road to Darjeeling, is out October of 2010.