Sunday, December 6, 2009
Review: Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Silent in the Grave (A Lady Julia Grey Novel #1)
By: Deanna Raybourn
About the book:
“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 long-standing 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.
It’s taken me two years to finally read Deanna Raybourn’s novels, and after finishing Silent in the Grave I can’t believe I waited that long to lose myself in Lady Julia Grey’s world. Thanks to every book blogger who’s reviewed her work and inspired me to check it out. This book was just spectacular. It’s been years since I’ve read a novel that hooked me so utterly and completely from the first page that I had to carry it with me everywhere I went, so I could read a few pages here and there every time a chance presented itself. Grave has the romance of Jane Eyre, the dark passions of Wuthering Heights, and the dangerous atmosphere of Sherlock Holmes’s best adventures (think The Hound of the Baskervilles).
This isn’t your typical mystery novel. Silent in the Grave is a little less about what killed Julia’s husband (that investigation doesn’t really kick into high gear until about three quarters of the way through the book) then it is more about Julia’s growth from a traditional society wife to an independent, adventurous woman. Julia has always been the most “proper” member of a rather unorthodox, free-thinking family, and Edward’s death and the subsequent investigation into its cause forces Julia to come to terms with unsavory truths that force her to decide the type of woman she wants to become. I absolutely loved Julia’s voice – she’s funny, sarcastic, and at times painfully honest – a unique heroine to spend time with.
Julia’s partner in her investigation, the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane, is an absolutely delicious character. He’s dark, brooding, intense, mysterious, and totally and completely swoon-worthy. :) A heady mix of classic figures such as Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, and perhaps just a touch of Darcy-esque aloofness and control, Brisbane is the ideal character to rock Julia’s perfectly proper world. I loved the way Raybourn builds Julia and Brisbane’s relationship throughout the novel. The romantic tension unfolds at a maddeningly leisurely pace, but the fact that Raybourn always left me wanting more just goes to show how utterly and completely hooked her characters had me.
Silent in the Grave isn’t for everyone as Raybourn definitely explores the seamy side of Victorian life. It’s also a little overly long and occasionally meandering, but since I loved the world Raybourn created I can’t really complain. :) But the mystery, and what brings Julia to the point of learning all sorts of unsavory details about her husband, isn’t really the point of the book (it wasn’t for me, anyway). It’s the choices Julia must make, and how she rebuilds her life when everything she’s known, or thought she knew, turns her world on end, that makes Raybourn’s first novel a compulsive, unput-downable read. Silent in the Grave is a rich, meaty historical that’s moody, atmospheric, romantic, and unforgettable. Raybourn is now on my must-read list. As an extra special bonus (haha), I thought I'd share my casting choice for the role of Brisbane on-screen (better yet, a BBC miniseries - please!!). I give you Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester...he's ABSOLUTELY perfect. Enjoy. :)