Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Grey, #1)
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Archived VBC Selections > Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn - VBC Sept 2018

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message 1: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
This delightful historical is the first in a series which, sadly, ended after the fifth book. While I was sad to say farewell to Lady Julia and Brisbane, this makes the Lady Julia series ideal for those of you who are pleased to discover a new series, but a bit daunted by trying to catch up on (for instance) 20 books. One of the things I enjoyed most about the series was the wit (the book has one of the all-time best ever first paragraphs for a mystery), Lady Julia's eccentric-if-not-entirely-mad family, and the puzzle of Brisbane himself - just who is he, and are all his talents of this material world?
Deanna Raybourne, happily, continues to write and has recently introduced a new mystery series featuring a Victorian cook!

Here's the summary of the book that appears on Amazon: "Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."

These ominous words are the last threat that 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, he 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 long-standing physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that her husband was murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers damning evidence for herself, and realizes the truth.

Determined to bring the 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.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you for your excellent introduction Merrily. I very much enjoyed the book, so much so that I’ve gone straight onto book 2. However I can see why the writer chose to leave it at a series of five (with a few novellas, I note). I look forward to discussing the nuances of Julia’s self awareness and Brisbane/Holmes archetype.


message 3: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Pam wrote: "Thank you for your excellent introduction Merrily. I very much enjoyed the book, so much so that I’ve gone straight onto book 2. However I can see why the writer chose to leave it at a series of fi..."

Yes, I was sorry to see the series end but sometimes it's better to go out on a high - I can't quite remember but I think it might have been a publisher's decision rather than Deanna's - but I'm not sure. I think Lady Julia is quite well drawn. I'm still in the midst of the re-read, an am enjoying it just as much the second time around!


C.P. Lesley (cplesley) | 133 comments Yes, this was a good one. I remember enjoying it very much.


Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments So far I like it a lot!

BTW Kindle's only $1.99!


message 6: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Carole wrote: "So far I like it a lot!

BTW Kindle's only $1.99!"


Carole and C.P., I'm glad you enjoyed (or are enjoying) the book - I thought it was a great series and like Deanna Raybourn's other books, too!


message 7: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments I've read the first three, and enjoyed them. I was struck by how long especially the first one was - not in a bad way, but most series mysteries are at least 100 pages shorter.


message 8: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "I've read the first three, and enjoyed them. I was struck by how long especially the first one was - not in a bad way, but most series mysteries are at least 100 pages shorter."

She must have been on a real roll when she started it, Emily!


Mary (storytellermary) | 262 comments Thanks for reminding me that the series, like all good things, will come to an end . . . best to be prepared for the inevitable loss. I do love it! Independent woman, sticking up for others, settling for no less than a partnership with her equal. <3


message 10: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "Thanks for reminding me that the series, like all good things, will come to an end . . . best to be prepared for the inevitable loss. I do love it! Independent woman, sticking up for others, settli..."
One of the things I like about this book, Mary, is that we see Julia discovering who she really is. She starts out thinking that she just wants a quiet life and that she's nothing at all like the other Marches, but of course as time goes on, she finds that she too is "eccentric," at least by the standards of Victorian society.
By the way, I was amused by the coincidence (if it is that) of Julia's maiden name - March - which is, of course, shared with the "Little Women" and especially the notoriously independent Jo.
Let me take this opportunity to recommend the author's relatively new Veronica Speedwell series. She, too, is a remarkably independent heroine (a sexually liberated one, for one thing), and her partner/sometime antagonist is another intriguing male!


message 11: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary (storytellermary) | 262 comments Oh yes! I devoured the first three Veronica Speedwell books . . . are there/will there be more? I do see parallels between the two series.


message 12: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Mary wrote: "Oh yes! I devoured the first three Veronica Speedwell books . . . are there/will there be more? I do see parallels between the two series."

Yes, so far as I know they're continuing.


message 13: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary (storytellermary) | 262 comments Hurrah!


Antoinette | 186 comments Just started the book but enjoying it. Now I want to read the new Veronica Speedwell series too. Thank you Merrily


message 15: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Antoinette wrote: "Just started the book but enjoying it. Now I want to read the new Veronica Speedwell series too. Thank you Merrily"

I'm sure you'll enjoy Veronica, Antoinette, she's an amazing character!


message 16: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I know that Brisbane has a number of Holmesian characteristics, but does anyone join me in thinking he's rather like Mr. Rochester, too, in everything from general appearence to the headaches?


message 17: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Merrily wrote: "I know that Brisbane has a number of Holmesian characteristics, but does anyone join me in thinking he's rather like Mr. Rochester, too, in everything from general appearence to the headaches?"

Yes, he definitely has that brooding thing going on.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes I agree with you Merrily however I always found Mr Rochester scary and could never quite get the attraction whereas Brisbane is marginally more accessible. I hadn’t thought of the connection at all but did wonder what is it in these unobtainable men that is so attractive to both the heroine and many readers. Holmes and Brisbane (and Rochester too) dismissing, disregarding, overlooking or not valuing women or those particular women. Is it that human drive we have to make ourselves heard as individuals tied rather closely with the attraction of the handsome but unobtainable?


message 19: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments I can't say broody ever did it for me (What is Heathcliff's attraction? He just seems like a jerk.) But presumably it's something about being so attractive that a powerful man abandons his general modus operandi and falls for you.


message 20: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "I can't say broody ever did it for me (What is Heathcliff's attraction? He just seems like a jerk.) But presumably it's something about being so attractive that a powerful man abandons his general ..."

Emily and Pam, I think Emily has it right there (although I never liked Heathcliff, myself, I always thought he was a jerk) - but with Mr. Rochester as with Holmes, I think there is something in the female nature that either says "Oh, this poor man is so tortured, perhaps I am the one who can Heal him," oh, "Oh, this man is beyond the reach of most women, but perhaps I am the one who can defrost him." In real life I would doubtless run like a gazelle because I have never had much patience with high-maintenance people, but in fiction I find such men appealing, go figure.


message 21: by Linda (new)

Linda | 44 comments Thanks for the words of wisdom about the sanity of avoiding the Heathcliff/Rochester/Brisbain types. Too full of themselves in my opinion.

And Laurie has made a Holmes who is much more tolerable, because we see those glimpses of his emotions which humanize him. And Russell is not like the many of us females who value outright tenderness, so it obviously works for them. Also one has to remember that they are of their. period. I actually found Mr. March being one of the most sensible and likable characters in the book.

And the rest of what I have to say would be spoilerish.


message 22: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Thanks for the words of wisdom about the sanity of avoiding the Heathcliff/Rochester/Brisbain types. Too full of themselves in my opinion.

And Laurie has made a Holmes who is much more tolerable,..."


After the 10th you may spoil away, Linda! I quite like like Brisbane as a character, I just know that in real life dealing with such a man would require a vast reserve of patience and understanding which I probably don't have.
I think you're spot on about Holmes and Russell. I think Russell is a strong woman who doesn't want to be treated like a china doll, but also values support and tenderness when needed (I always remember the scene in "The Moor" when Holmes returns after Russell has found a dead body in the lake, sees that she is traumatized, and instead of peppering her with questions - which would probably be his inclination - just holds her until she's able to pull herself together).
One of the things I've always admired about Laurie's books is that she's somehow managed to create a Holmes who can fall in love and end up a married man and is still believably the Holmes of Canon, albeit mellowed with age!


message 23: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments For those who have read the book, please tell me the pace picks up. I'm nearing the halfway point, and so far it's been endless dithering by Julia. I'm bored and want to smack her.


message 24: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "For those who have read the book, please tell me the pace picks up. I'm nearing the halfway point, and so far it's been endless dithering by Julia. I'm bored and want to smack her."

I don't know if I can help with that, Karen, as I never was bored, but there are certainly some action sequences coming up, not to mention Brisbane's mysterious illness...


message 25: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne | 24 comments That was me too. I almost gave up on the book. After reading what other people were saying I decided to persevere and am glad I did. Just keep going.


message 26: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Jeanne wrote: "That was me too. I almost gave up on the book. After reading what other people were saying I decided to persevere and am glad I did. Just keep going."

I would also add that there is much less (if any) dithering in the following books, because Lady Julia more or less discovers who she really is.


message 27: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Jeanne wrote: "That was me too. I almost gave up on the book. After reading what other people were saying I decided to persevere and am glad I did. Just keep going."

I mentioned that it's longer than the usual book of this sort. I wasn't particularly bothered by the pacing, but we probably are used to things moving along a bit more quickly. If she'd wanted to, she certainly could have cut it down. I'm kind of surprised the editor didn't force that on her.


message 28: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "Jeanne wrote: "That was me too. I almost gave up on the book. After reading what other people were saying I decided to persevere and am glad I did. Just keep going."

I mentioned that it's longer t..."


Perhaps the length was considered necessary because (as often with first books) there was a lot of world building and character exposition that had to take place?


message 29: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I think the pacing was so slow because the author was writing half a Gothic romance and half a murder mystery. She seemed not to be able to really go one way or the other until the end of the book.


message 30: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "I think the pacing was so slow because the author was writing half a Gothic romance and half a murder mystery. She seemed not to be able to really go one way or the other until the end of the book."

Interesting point, Karen. As I was remarking earlier, I do find Brisbane very Rochester-ish.


message 31: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Merrily wrote: "Perhaps the length was considered necessary because (as often with first books) there was a lot of world building and character exposition that had to take place?

..."


KarenB wrote: "I think the pacing was so slow because the author was writing half a Gothic romance and half a murder mystery. She seemed not to be able to really go one way or the other until the end of the book."

I'd agree with that. I think some of her earlier books were straight romance? Just an impression I got in passing on the library website.

Sorcerer's Stone and Hobbit are shorter than the others in the series, after all.


message 32: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy Van Daele | 39 comments Merrily wrote: "I know that Brisbane has a number of Holmesian characteristics, but does anyone join me in thinking he's rather like Mr. Rochester, too, in everything from general appearence to the headaches?"

Yes! Thoroughly enjoyed the book and raced through it. Am reading book 2. Liked the first person and how the character discovers her own feelings and preferences through writing about them—the journal aspect.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Like Dorothy above, I’ve raced through the first, second and now on the third. I am finding the main characters now a little tiresome. However what I am enjoying is that we never get Brisbane’s point of view (correct me if I am wrong here) so share Julia’s utter frustration about his feelings towards her or what on earth he is going to do next. A nice stylistic twist.

Actually I find it difficult to navigate/understand Brisbane as a character at all, come to think of it. There is something of the ‘Mills & Boon’ romantic hero about him ....but then I thought that of Rochester and Heathcliffe ... the difference being the quality of the writing and the coherence of each characters’ actions.

As an aside, has anyone outside the UK seen Aidan Turner in the most recent BBC Poldark? A perfect Brisbane I would have thought.


message 34: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Pam wrote: "Like Dorothy above, I’ve raced through the first, second and now on the third. I am finding the main characters now a little tiresome. However what I am enjoying is that we never get Brisbane’s poi..."
Oh, good casting, Pam - I do think Aiden Turner would make a good Brisbane! As the series goes on, we do come to understand why Brisbane is so complex - I at least I think so.
Does anyone else see more "Jane Eyre" parellels in the presence of Simon in the house? He's not exactly the Mad Wife in the attic, but there is more to him than meets the eye...


message 35: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sorry for the lapse in appearences on "Silent in the Grave," but first I was at Bouchercon, and then I was recovering from Bouchercon! Now that I'm back to normal, I can say we've passed the "no spoilers" deadline, so feel free to discuss anything that struck you about the book.
Did you see the identity of the murderer coming? I confess I did not. I thought she did a good job of having him so sick, and so close to death's door, that I just didn't see him as a suspect! (Which is, of course, the sign of a good mystery.)


message 36: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 205 comments Merrily,

Thanks for the prompt. I did not see the murderer as Simon at any point until close to the end. I had begun to suspect that Edward was gay, or at least that he had been having sex with men, but not that Simon was also gay.

How was Bouchercon? A friend of mine attended also. I thought about going since I’m only a three hours away, but there just weren’t enough authors I wanted to meet to make the trip or pay the fees, although I could have stayed with a relative.

I was disappointed that Grey House burned down. I know Julia was contemplating selling it anyway, but short of Simon’s attempt to kill her and ultimately killing himself, I did not see a purpose for that.

Dayna


message 37: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn | 2 comments I really did enjoy this book. Although the pacing was more like a gothic, I found the mystery entertaining and didn't guess who did it until the final few chapters. I really wanted more of Julia's family and several of the other characters, and found the relationship with Brisbane a little tiresome at times. It really felt that that relationship was being prepared for a series, and not just this one book. That said, I'll probably read more of the series!


message 38: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Dayna wrote: "Merrily,

Thanks for the prompt. I did not see the murderer as Simon at any point until close to the end. I had begun to suspect that Edward was gay, or at least that he had been having sex with me..."


Dayna, Bouchercon was great - good panels and as always I picked up new authors to read. One was the Speed and Lincoln series by Jonathan Putnam, in which Abraham Lincoln and his friend Joshua Speed are the "Holmes and Watson." It's set in Springfield, IL when Lincoln and Speed were young bachelors and roommates, and the cases are based on real cases that Lincoln tried as a lawyer. I've really enjoyed the first one and am reading the second.
I didn't spot Simon as the murderer, either. I think Deanna burned Grey House as a way of disposing with Julia's old life and perception of who she was. (And it is rather a Gothic moment, when you think of it - consider Thornfield Hall.) In the books that follow (glad you will read more of them, Carolyn), we do see more of Julia's family members and indeed, of the raven (I became quite fond of him).


message 39: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn | 2 comments Glad to hear the raven continues in the series!


message 40: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Carolyn wrote: "Glad to hear the raven continues in the series!"

Yes, he's quite the character!


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn’t spot Simon as a suspect either. He appeared so gentle and loving to Julia. I did, like Dayna, suspect that Edward had interests elsewhere but was suitably ‘shocked’ at the involvement of a footman in the convolutions of a story. But Edward’s carelessness with that young man illustrates Edward’s selfishness.

I do wonder why gay people have to be the bad ones in such stories. The only gay historical novel character who is delightful (in my view) is Lord John Grey (any relation!?) Diana Gabaldon’s character whose own adventures are fun to read. He is a most sympathetic character who is neither defined by being gay nor bad and has a family who could hold up novels themselves (his mother and older brother, for instance).


message 42: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 205 comments Merrily, I’ll have to think about Bouchercon next year. Is it always in the same place? The series about Lincoln and his roommate sounds interesting.

Pam, I’ve read a couple of the Gabaldon books but don’t recall Lord Grey. I don’t read much in that genre, so I don’t have anything to compare to. I was introduced by another lesbian to the Kate Martinelli series by Ms. King and thence drawn to her other books. Her portrayal of gay characters in any of her books always sets well with me, including Russell and Holmes’ views and commentary. There was a time when books that had gay characters would only be published if the character reformed or died at the end, so _Silent_ is (sadly) in keeping with that. Do any other of Raybourn’s books have gay or lesbian characters?


message 43: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Dayna wrote: "Merrily, I’ll have to think about Bouchercon next year. Is it always in the same place? The series about Lincoln and his roommate sounds interesting.

Pam, I’ve read a couple of the Gabaldon books ..."


Dayna, Bouchercon is wonderful, I always tell people that for mystery readers it's like being a teenager at a rock concert with all your favorite musicians! It moves around the country - next year it's in Dallas. If you google "Bouchercon 2019" you'll get information on the conference, how to sign up, and you can also find out where the future conferences are scheduled.
As to gay characters in mysteries, there a number of positive images out there in addition to Kate Martinelli - for one, the policeman in Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series, who's a very sympathetic character. I'm sorry I can't remember whether Deanna Raybourn has gay characters in her other books - that's what I get for just reading too much, LOL.


message 44: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 205 comments Guess I missed my chance to do Bouchercon this year, Merrily.

Re _Silent_, Raybourn’s portrayal of Julia’s sister and her life partner were very positive, so I guess that balances out Edward, Simon, and the other gay male characters.


message 45: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Dayna wrote: "Guess I missed my chance to do Bouchercon this year, Merrily.

Re _Silent_, Raybourn’s portrayal of Julia’s sister and her life partner were very positive, so I guess that balances out Edward, Sim..."


That's true, I should have remembered that, Dayna!


Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments I completely missed Simon as the murderer, even as I was reading her confrontation with him.

I raced right through the entire series including the novellas. Thoroughly enjoyed them.


message 47: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Carole wrote: "I completely missed Simon as the murderer, even as I was reading her confrontation with him.

I raced right through the entire series including the novellas. Thoroughly enjoyed them."


I thought it was a terrific series, Carole, and was sorry that it didn't go on longer. My new ambition is to listen to the books on audio!


message 48: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments I do wonder why gay people have to be the bad ones in such stories.

Yes! This! I know it was balanced by Julia's sister's relationship, but still. While being vilified by societal norms could cause one to become warped, it is much, much more likely that it would cause one to become suicidal instead - see statistics on suicides in gay and trans teens, for instance.


message 49: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
KarenB wrote: "I do wonder why gay people have to be the bad ones in such stories.

Yes! This! I know it was balanced by Julia's sister's relationship, but still. While being vilified by societal norms could cau..."


True, but I'd say in this case a commentary was being made on what can happen when people are forced to hide their real natures. I don't think there's any implication that homosexuality is wrong or evil, but in that day it was not only regarded as a vice, but was actually illegal (cf Oscar Wilde). It's society's condemnation of homosexuality that is the villain here, not Simon. And of course, Simon kills Lord Grey not because they are homosexual, but because he is jealous, which is something that can bedevil anyone, and lead to tragedy if it gets out of hand.


message 50: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments While there's maybe some latent homophobia running around, I think also there's the basic structural issue, in that there are not that many motives for murder. An author gets to pick from money, love, crazy, revenge, or blackmail, and for historical novels, blackmail on sexual practices works pretty well as a plot point. We get the occasional novel where the characters are ahistorically accepting of homosexuality, as well - I remember that from the Churchill book last year.


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