This was another book that read quickly and that, once into the meat of the story, I did not want to put down for anything. Both this and the first in...moreThis was another book that read quickly and that, once into the meat of the story, I did not want to put down for anything. Both this and the first in the Lady Julia series by Deanna Raybourn have been, simply put, eminently readable. I think I may have liked this one even more than the first book, Silent in the Grave.
Although the murder doesn't occur until almost half of the way through the book, the intrigue begins almost as soon as the house party gathers at Belmont Abbey, and until Lady Julia and Brisbane figure out the answers, they don't know which mysteries are connected to one another. And even though the murder is late in the book, it still seemed like the investigation began earlier than it did in the first book.
In addition to Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane, we saw more of Lady Julia's father, Lord March, and her sister, Portia. We also heard more from the frank prostitute-turned-maid Morag and Aquinas, Julia's excellent butler, and even the Roma Magda. Other family members and friends were out of the picture, but there were some additions to the world of Lady Julia: two more of her brothers, Plum and Lysander, who were previously mentioned but not seen, as well as some other odd relatives. Another welcome addition was the March family home, Belmont Abbey, with its secret passages and interesting rooms and family traditions.
Even Lady Julia didn't annoy me nearly as much as she had before. She may not have been much less stupid than previously, but she certainly stopped pointing it out, which had bothered me. She did annoy me with her constant making of "mental notes", but, as before, it's worth any small annoyance, because I enjoyed the story so much.
Some twists and surprises the reader may be able to see coming long before the characters do, but again, this didn't at all spoil my enjoyment of the story. I can't wait to read the third volume in the series, and I wish there were more of them. (less)
Lady Julia Grey's husband dies nearly before her eyes. She has been expecting it for some time, as he suffered from serious heart trouble, so she take...moreLady Julia Grey's husband dies nearly before her eyes. She has been expecting it for some time, as he suffered from serious heart trouble, so she takes no heed of Nicholas Brisbane, a private investigator, when he insists that Edward was murdered. That is, until she finds one of the threatening notes that Brisbane had claimed Edward was receiving. She and Brisbane reopen the case, but as they investigate her husband's murder, she discovers terrifying clues, and finds more adventure than she's ever known, learns things about Edward, Brisbane, and even about herself that she's not sure she wanted to know, and finds her world changed.
If the premise doesn't hook you, the opening of the book should:
To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.
After that teasing opening line, we are kept waiting for the mystery and the investigation to begin for quite a while, while Deanna Raybourn sets the scene of Victorian London and Grey House. She shows us the details of life in that time, from aesthetics to practices, and introduces us to the personalities that surround our heroine Lady Julia. She also shows us the traditions and cultural expectations surrounding death, mourning, and, thanks to the Queen, widowhood. Then the mystery begins, and we see a bit of the darker and dirtier aspects of that time, as we find clues and items of interest, and other small mysteries as well. There is excitement and some danger, there are frustrations and setbacks, there are breakthroughs. There are paths that lead nowhere. There are new people for Julia to meet, and more to learn about those she already knows.
This book has an interesting mystery, a richly detailed Victorian setting, and characters that make you want to hear more from them. Julia's family, the eccentric Marches, are very interesting, as are Brisbane and his friends, but we also get to meet characters with lower social statuses and with varying occupations. Some of the characters are charming, some sympathetic, some repulsive, but all are rounded, interesting people.
Julia herself is a great narrator, giving us her honest observations and frank opinions of herself as well as everything and everyone around her. She's also a good heroine, behaving and feeling--whether properly or improperly, wisely or irrationally--as most of us would in her situation, and generally sympathetic in her liberal values and beliefs (especially as she professes to loving the novels of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters).
Julia has flaws, as she should, but unfortunately one of them is occasional stupidity, which (to her credit?) she always points out--but it's a bit too much stupidity sometimes, to the point of being unrealistic, and her pointing it out tended to annoy me. She usually mentions it when she does something she shouldn't, which isn't necessarily stupid, or when she doesn't make a leap of logic that Brisbane does, which sometimes is stupid, as the leaps aren't really large ones. She doesn't point out her stupidity, however, for not seeing a few things that she discovers with shock late in the book, which I thought were pretty obvious from the first--what I felt was her real stupidity.
Another slight annoyance was just how liberal her beliefs were; it stretched even my suspended disbelief at times to hear her denying any and all prejudice based on ethnicity or religion. I think her later condemnation of another common target of prejudice might even be more out of hurt than out of actual prejudice. Prejudice may turn a modern reader off, but it was prevalent and very deep in Julia's culture and I think readers should expect at least some conformity with her fellow Victorians. On the other hand, I was somewhat relieved that the woman I liked, that I sympathized with, didn't espouse ideas that are abhorrent to me, so it wasn't a major flaw in the book.
My last complaint was the fact that although Julia and Brisbane were ostensibly working toward the same goal, even working together, the two often seemed at odds with each other. While she sometimes mistrusted him because she was actually afraid of him, he never seemed to trust her either. He actually thought that she would conceal evidence that she thought would lead to the murderer. Why would she do that? She engaged him to find the murderer, why would she get in the way of him doing that? Furthermore, since she did engage him, if she for some reason did want to get in his way, he should let her, since, as her agent, her satisfaction should be his goal. Still, while I found his behavior odd, the scene beside the tree made up for it.
Despite having written what seems like a lot about the things I didn't like, I really did enjoy this book a great deal. I look forward to reading the sequels that are already published (next up is Silent in the Sanctuary, and hope for more in the future.(less)