Have I mentioned for the third time how much I’ve been looking forward to the next book in the Lady Julia series? I was blown away by the turn and handling of the transitional book in the series Dark Road to Darjeeling and I wanted more. And to think I was afraid that book may not live up to my love of the first three books. So as you can imagine when The Dark Enquiry popped up on NetGalley a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance to review it. My nerves were more than a little jumpy, too until my request was approved. There was no looking back after that as I eagerly downloaded the eARC to my Kindle.
SPOILER WARNING: I hate to do this but it’s become impossible to talk about this series without mentioning a major spoiler from Dark Road to Darjeeling. If you have any interest in reading this series please go pick up Silent in the Grave and the two “Silents” which precede it first. I promise you you won’t be disappointed.
Freshly arrived from a murder investigation in India, Lady Julia is back in a routine at the Brisbane residence in London. Routine meaning her new routine – getting used to everyday married life and honing her detective skills, which include the most shockingly unladylike interests such as working with gunpowder and mastering the use of firearms. Unfortunately – and a fact to which the neighbors, servants, and her family can attest – she is not having much success. Julia’s brother Plum, who remains in the employ of Brisbane is nearly as concerned as her husband himself. In fact Brisbane may be regretting promising Julia equal partnership in his work as he continues to unsuccessfully quell his constant concern for her safety. To allay his fears Brisbane sends her to a quieter investigation in the country; however, his plan backfires when Julia discovers that her oldest brother, parliament member and staunch Tory Lord Bellmont has been secretly meeting with Brisbane. Most perplexing is that it’s no secret the two men have never taken a liking to one another – so why now, and behind Julia’s back? Concerned for both the safety of Brisbane and the public reputation of her brother, Julia unknowingly puts herself at the scene of a murder by following Brisbane to a séance at the popular Spirit Club. When she learns that the victim is connected to her brother, she finds that herself and Brisbane need each other more than ever on an investigation that may very personally affect Julia and the entire March family.
Dark Road to Darjeeling left Julia and Brisbane in such an interesting place personally and professionally, and happily The Dark Enquiry picks up right where they left off while returning to where the series began: in London. After offering her unsolicited help in the three murder investigations leading up to their marriage, Julia desperately wants to continue her partnership in Brisbane’s detective work, pushing to be more intimately involved than ever. However Brisbane, after covering up and saving her from her more amateurish mistakes time and time again remains wary of full involvement in a profession which can be both dirty and unforgiving. As both sides are clearly and equally in the right, all you can hope for is that Julia and Brisbane reach a compromise, how ever far away, that satisfies both parties. The resolution of their understandable concerns was a luring conflict I was dying to see play out.
Besides the nuanced characterization I’ve come to expect, the sense of place in The Dark Enquiry is absorbing. Victorian London is a far cry from India but just as lushly and vividly drawn. Deanna Raybourn knows her setting as inside and out as her time period and it shows in how it envelopes you. I have serious love for the haunting scenes in Highgate cemetery and a lurid attraction to the gritty exchanges in the back alleys of London. As always the eccentric March family are a hoot and a dynamic character in and of themselves. I enjoyed becoming more acquainted with Bellmont and Plum and smiled during every passage with Julia’s quirky father. While always leaving a little to the imagination, the Brisbane revelation was also very welcome. I’d happily accept a never completely solved mystery of a man for Brisbane to have a claim on my heart. Most of all I loved stepping into Julia’s obstinate yet charming shoes. Doesn’t every woman have the secret desire to moonlight as a spy and detective? It’s incredibly thrilling and rewarding to see the direction her relationship with Brisbane takes during the unpredictable and surprising investigation. In what is becoming typical Raybourn fashion, the tantalizing last page has left me pining for more of Julia, Brisbane, and their next locale. If I could only have my fix preferably like, now.
The Dark Enquiry comes out on June 21.