Lady Julia Grey has just lost Edward, her husband of five years. Their time together had seemed happy enough, though in actuality it was somewhat empty. The one thing Julia thought she could be certain of in regards to her husband’s character was the poor health of the Grey family’s male line, which led to the early deaths of Edward’s father and grandfather. Much to her chagrin, private inquirer Mr. Nicholas Brisbane calls his natural death into question only days after the funeral by revealing Edward’s employment of his truly in investigating some rather evil and threatening notes Edward had received in the months prior to his death. At first Julia balks at the very idea and its enigmatic and imposing messenger, but a year later finds herself crawling back to Brisbane after she discovers a stray note in Edward’s desk drawer. What ensues is both amateurish and calculated detective work and the normal high society life of parties and social calls wherein Lady Julia, for the first time in her life, begins to live life to the fullest and come into her own.
Equal parts period, mystery, and romance novel, I thoroughly enjoyed Silent in the Grave. First I’ll start with my Likes (things that are noteworthy):
Edward’s secrets, the culprit, and the motive were not at all what I expected. Actually, Deanna Raybourn went in a totally different, but fitting direction than I would have. I also liked Brisbane, who alternately oozes sex appeal and scares off everyone around him. His major character reveals were unpredictable and rewarding.
Now for my Loves (things that really stood out):
First, the writing is literary and just plain smart. I found myself needing a dictionary more than once, and I loved that. It was the kind of intelligent language and cutting dialogue that you can just sit back, drink in, and enjoy. Words like reticule, disposition, laundress, and salubrious. I know part of that I owe to the proper, formal Victorian setting, but much of it was Raybourn’s unfailing prose.
Second, it was such a compulsive read for me, and not many books are. I enjoyed the short chapters and kept telling myself over and over again that I would just start or finish one more chapter – which of course didn’t happen. It also read so smoothly for its intelligence that I’d thought I’d suddenly become a speedreader overnight, and I loved that as well.
Third, I enjoyed how all of the characters, from major to minor and duke to maid, were created equal. Class difference means nothing to Julia, just as character prominence means nothing to Raybourn and her plot. The butler Aquinas was just if not more a part of the March family than Julia’s own brothers and sisters (and equally a significant character and murder suspect). Similarly, her complaining, but caring maid Morag is as dear to Julia as her social equals. Everyone’s given the benefit of the doubt and considered innocent until proven guilty, and I loved that most.