Tina's Reviews > Silent in the Grave

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
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's review
Mar 27, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery
Read in March, 2008

"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."

Thus begins the compulsively readable mystery by Deanna Raybourne. Lady Julia Grey is a respectable member of the Victorian Britain upper class. Her husband dies during a dinner party. Edward had a congenital heart condition that affected all the men in his family. it was understood that he was likely to die at an early age. A mysterious stranger believes he has been murdered but Julia is outraged at the thought and dismisses the man completely. Until much later when she finds a threatening note that seems to bear out what Nicholas Brisbane has said.

Julia hires Brisbane to investigate her husband's murder. But Julia also finds herself drawn into the investigation, questioning servants and finding out answers to questions she never knew she even had.

First of all, I love historical mysteries. I had just recently discovered Tasha Alexander and had enjoyed her two books A Poisoned Season and And Only to Deceive. I had been wishing to find something similar to those and was happy that i stumbled over Deanna Raybourne. Both Emily Ashton from Alexander's books and Julia Grey in this book are lured into the world of criminal detection after their husband's die under mysterious circumstances. I enjoy these drawing room, genteel ladies being thrust out of their comfortable, upper class sphere only to learn a little bit more of the world around them. And if they come into contact with a dark, handsome, mysterious man...then so much the better.

The mystery itself is nicely plotted. As with these sorts of cozy mysteries, you go down a lot of roads and you find out a lot of juicy stuff until the murderer is unmasked. One thing is immediately brought to mind is this idea of Victorian public virtue vs. private vice. Purposefully, I believe, Raybourne emphasizes this dichotomy in Victorian society in this book. She shows Julia as this person of virtue who was brought up and lives by a certain set of very visible rules (the whole rules of mourning by a widow are explained and explored). However, the course of Julia's investigation takes her into close contact with prostitutes, the poor working classes, anti-semitism and other racial prejudice, disease and homosexuality.

Nicholas Brisbane is something of an issue for me. On the one hand, I can't help but be fascinated by him. He is smart and worldy and by all accounts handsome and sexy. But on the other, he is a little too, too much. He is a virtuoso violinist, he knows languages, her well traveled, he knows herbal lore, he has the second sight and so on and so on. I think she kinda poured it on a little thickly with him. Added to that, he is so darned enigmatic that he sometimes tips over the scale to remoteness and coldness. But yet, I still find him utterly fascinating.

On the other hand, Julia's character is wonderful. She is nicely flawed, which I love. I can't stand a too perfect heroine. She is impulsive, a little childish, she does stupid things that you'd expect an amateur with a measure of naivete to do, but overall a pretty decent person and pretty true to her upbringing and station. And I ADORE her family. I totally enjoy books that include a large, sprawling, charismatic family. And the March family is that in spades. She has 9 brothers and sisters, many, many cousins and aunts and uncles (I especially love the aunt they call The Ghoul who loves to go to funerals) and a father who is just awesome. Raybourne does a great job injecting little bits about the family dynamic, including the long time servants. I want to read the next book just so I can see and learn more about her family.
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02/07 marked as: read

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Beth If you enjoyed Deanna Raybourn's book, which I definitely did, too, I suggest you try A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH by Charles Finch. Like Deanna's book and my own A REAL BASKET CASE, Charles's book was nominated for the 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award. It's also a Victorian mystery set in London and features Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer, as the sleuth.

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