Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
(Book 1 in the Lady Julia Grey series)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 534
Date Published: January 2007
Publisher: MIRA Books
Source: Paperback Swap
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book description (back of the book blurb):
"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.
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I really enjoyed this first book in the Lady Julia Grey series! I've been hearing great things about it, and after this book sat on my TBR pile for a few months I'm glad I finally picked it up! Mysteries in a historical setting are one of my favorite kinds of stories, so this was right up my alley. Be expecting reviews on the next three books in the series soon!

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the character development. Lady Julia discovers that her desire to be "normal" in a very unique family has caused her to lose herself. She let her husband make her into someone she wasn't. Widowhood allowed her to begin to find herself, and her involvement in the investigation into his death teaches her about herself. In the end, she realizes that she likes to feel like she's doing something useful with her life, rather than just the usual housewifely duties.

The relationship between Brisbane and Lady Julia in this book reminded me of the early Monk-Hester relationship in Anne Perry's William Monk series. In both series, unconventional women are paired up with prickly, somewhat grumpy men who think they know it all, but it ends up that they do their best work when they work together.

I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were really well-chosen--they are short (which means I'll read them) but they still do a great job of hinting at the events to come in the chapter. And since Lady Julia's father is a huge fan of Shakespeare, it made so much sense that many of the quotes were from Shakespeare. Here's an example:

If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
within the centre.
--William Shakespeare, Hamlet

This book gets a 4 of 5 stars from me because my early hunch about the murderer was correct, though I couldn't quite work out all of the events and the motive until the big reveal at the end. Even so, this was a great start to a historical mystery series, and definitely got me interested in following what would happen next for Lady Julia and Brisbane.

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