Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Grey, Book 1)
by Deanna Raybourn
2007 Mira Books
Hardcover Edition; 511 Pages
Genre: Historical Suspense / Mystery
Source: Local Library
5 / 5 Stars
"Let them 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 themto Nicholas Brisbane, the private enquiry 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.
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.
I was completely hooked by this author right from the beginning of this story until the very end. To say it was completely different from what I was expecting is an understatement, but it ended up being so much better than that. Rather than being a cliched mystery novel, where the entire novel revolves around the 'whodunit' aspect, the author painstakingly takes the reader on a young widow's journey as she opens her eyes to life and its existence that surrounds her, but she never really truly saw until the moment her husband was murdered.
The characters in this novel were strong, unique, and full of charm and intrigues of their own. While Julia herself is portrayed as a wife, a sister, and a daughter, someone meek and who has never done anything 'colourful', the characters surrounding her are full of life and character. They were full of surprises and I never grew tired of them or of learning more about them; in fact, I didn't learn enough about them. As the mystery evolves, Julia is forced into making more agressive decisions, to the relief of her family, and comes out of her shell, but at the same time, has a few hard lessons to learn about life and what it entails. She learns she has lived in a bubble for most of her life and is determined to open her eyes and see more of the world. Nicholas Brisbane, who works with her as her 'investigative' partner, is a brooding dark character, with a mysterious past, who intrigues Julia, and me too. I was fascinated by his secretive qualities and the bits and pieces we were given of his life.
What makes this novel so enjoyable is not the 'mystery' itself, but the foibles of the characters and the witty dialogue that pokes fun at the upper classes during this time period. At the same time, the author also explores the issues of poverty, infidelity, prejudice, widowhood, and servitude - all with the aim of satirizing those with too much money on their hands who do not pay attention to those who are really in need. Julie herself realizes how good she has it when she visits different people in her quest for the murdered, and wonders if she would have survived after Edward's death if he had not left her an inheritance. She also questions the upper classes and their wealth, commenting on how easily they gain their things in life, without really appreciating what they truly have, or how they can really contribute to the world in which they live.
With an ending that turned out the be very surprising with amazing twists and turns, what you end up with is a historical thriller that will have you racing to read books 2 (Silent in the Sanctuary) and 3 (Silent on the Moor).