Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia Grey, Book 4)
by Deanna Raybourn
Release Date: October 1st, 2010
2010 Mira Books
ISBN: 978-0-7783-2820-9
Softcover Edition; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Murder Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more.  At the urging of Julia's eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the new widowed Jane Cavendish.  Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband's family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child - and with discovering the truth about her husband's death.  Was he murdered for his estate?  And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish.  The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies.  In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly.  The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.

My Thoughts
I read Silent in the Grave earlier this year and was thoroughly hooked by the relationship between Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane.  When I found out I was getting an ARC of Deanna Raybourn's latest installment of Lady Julia's adventures, I was absolutely thrilled, and the novel certainly met my expectations.  I was completely hooked from beginning to end and pretty much read the book in one sitting. 

The highlight of this series however, is definitely not the mysteries, but the fascinating sexual tension and romantic interplay that exists between the two principal characters, Lady Julia and Nicholas.  In this novel, Ms. Raybourn explores the marital relationship after the 'honeymoon glow' wears off and the reality of everyday life returns and she handled it beautifully.  Ms. Raybourn's amazing writing style made me feel I was right there in the story, feeling the frustations of two people whose lives have changed irrevocably, but whose personalities have not really changed, and who must now try to adapt and compromise and work out solutions so they can live happily and comfortably.  The interplay between Lady Julia and Nicholas was tense and difficult, yet the author still managed to convey their strong love for each other.   The main stumbling block in their relationship being that Lady Julia has full intentions of continuing her investigative work for Brisbane while he would prefer that she remain safe at home as he feels she is too unprepared.  It presents an interesting conundrum and I can't wait to see how it plays out in future books.

I find it so interesting that Julia and her family can come across as such snobs at times, due to their wealthy and aristocratic upbringing, and it really comes across in her viewpoints towards the servants and the foreigners in this novel.  Yet, they were the foreigners in the Himalayas; I found the pursuit to keep rigidly to English customs in a foreign land so ironic, treating those around them as beneath them, but I suppose it was the way things were done.   I found the discussions of general usefulness and having a purpose in life between the various characters to be utterly fascinating.  I never really thought about how a wealthy aristocratic woman could be seriously bored in her role and would maybe be looking for adventure and something to fill her days with purpose. 

The mystery itself takes on a secondary role in the novel, and provides a side story for a menage of secrets and scandals to be revealed as Julia and Brisbane investigate Freddie's death.  All sorts of interesting facts about illicit drug traffiking and pronographic issues are revealed in this tale, almost distracting the reader from the murder mystery, so when it was revealed, I was totally surprised and shocked.  I have to say it was definitely not what I was expecting, although the manner in which everything was revealed I thought was rushed.  I was also not impressed with all of the coincidences that appeared in this novel, although I can't reveal too much or I will give out some major spoilers in the story.  Some coincidences I can handle, but there were a few too many in this novel for me. 

Dark Road to Darjeeling was a delight to read and I really hope I don't have to wait too long for the next book in the series to be published.


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