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
Publisher: MIRA
ISBN: 978-0-7783-2525-6

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. :)


Heidenkind said...

Toby Stephens? I thought for sure you'd go with the guy who played Heathcliffe on the latest version of Wuthering Heights.

I've had this book in my TBR pile FOREVER. It sounds like a good winter read. I'll get to it eventually. ;)

Unknown said...

@heidenkind - OOOOHHH!!! That would've been a great choice! Probably even better than Toby (tho I do love him so). Tom Hardy it is. :)

Natalie said...

Pictures really don't do Toby Stephens justice. I saw his pick and thought - him? Rochester?! Bah! But then I watched it and thought ... Him! Rochester! And that's what made him perfect for the role. Jane didn't fall in love with him at first and neither did I ... the fact that he makes the character grow on you is a plus. Sounds great for this role. I really like the cover of this book.

Unknown said...

@Natalie - I love this cover too, but the publisher's redone them recently so the series looks more like a bodice ripper - which it's not. Oh well, who am I to question a sales move? *wink*

And you make an excellent point about TS...he's played smarmy villain types so often it can be hard to see him as a romantic hero type. In fact, I don't think I really considered him in that light until his turn as Rochester.

Maria Grazia said...

This is great review, Ruth. You really made me want to read it. I'll try to get this novel.
As for your casting proposal, I was sure you'd choose Richard Armitage as a new brooding romantic hero! Joking, of course! I Toby Stephen's Mr Rochester!

Maria Grazia said...

Ooops! I LOVE Toby Stephen's Mr Rochester!

Unknown said...

@Maria - Yay for passing on the inspiration! I seriously loved this book, hope you get to read it soon & that you enjoy it as well

And your comment about Richard made me much as I love him I don't quite see him as Brisbane. While he certainly has the smoldering requirement down (haha), I don't think he's quite wild enough, if that makes sense. And the more I think about it, the more I think heidenkind is correct - Tom Hardy from the last Wuthering Heights miniseries is probably an even better choice. Have you seen that film?

Lori Benton said...

I have this book in my TBR pile. You've convinced me to shuffle it to the top.

Unknown said...

@Lori - Oh, I do hope you enjoy it. I was not exaggerating in my review, I carried that book with me EVERYWHERE, I could hardly stand to put it down.

Maria Grazia said...

I saw the latest Wuthering Heights, it was part of a watching marathon I called "A Wuthering Weekend" ( ). Tom Hardy? I didn't paricularly like him as Heathcliff, but since you read the book, you are the one who can judge who the perfect Brisbane might be!
BTW, as for wild temper, have you thought how wild Gisborne can be?
OK! I'll stop .... ;-)

Unknown said...

@Maria - I hope you got the comment I left on your Wuthering Heights post (which was excellent BTW). Blogger is spazzing out on me every time I try to comment on blogs. Anyway - I did rather enjoy Tom Hardy in WH 2009...he had a certain wildness about him that worked well in the role IMO. His Brisbane qualities would be brute strength but graceful as a cat, haha!! Seriously, I feel like I'm way overthinking this but it's been fun. :) And yes, Gisborne's wild temper did cross my it, someday they'll make a film or miniseries of Silent in the Grave and he'll be cast as Nicholas. Trust me, I won't be complaining AT ALL if that turns out! :)

Lori (sugarandgrits) said...

LOVE the cover!! :)

This isn't something I would normally read, but your review is excellent. Thanks for sharing.

Merry Christmas!
~ Lori

Unknown said...

@Lori - Me too, I think this cover is just fantastic. And Merry Christmas to you too!

Roving Reader said...

Ooh I love the idea of Toby Stephens as Brisbane- the dark hair, the slightly menacing look- perfect! I can't wait to get started on the next book :)

Unknown said...

@Roving Reader - I know...TS IS Brisbane in my mind (with Richard Armitage and maybe that guy who played Heathcliff in the last Wuthering Heights running close seconds...his name escapes me at the moment). I would LOVE to see this series brought to life on-screen someday...I live in hope! :)