Thursday, February 19, 2009

Silent in the Grave

Title: Silent in the Grave
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2007
Series: Lady Julia Grey Mysteries (Book 1)
Next in Series: Silent in the Sanctuary

The year is 1886. Lady Julia is the wife of Baronet Sir Edward Grey and daughter of the Earl of March. As far as she is concerned, they live an average life in their London townhouse. But Sir Edward has never been healthy. No one in his family is; his grandfather, father and cousin all either suffer from or have died of heart problems. Therefore, no one is really surprised when Edward collapses at one of their house parties and dies shortly thereafter. No one, that is, except one of their guests that evening: Mr. Nicolas Brisbane. Edward hired Brisbane to uncover who had been sending him threatening notes with frightening bible passages. Julia pays no attention to Brisbane’s warning and a year passes.

With her year of mourning almost complete Julia has changed. Having escaped her unknown imprisonment from under her husband’s thumb she has taken her sister Portia’s advice and changed everything from her hair cut to her wardrobe and is even considering taking a lover. But then Julia undertakes the unpleasant task of cleaning out Edward’s room. There she uncovers a note that is just as Brisbane described. “Let me be not ashamed, Oh Lord; for I have called upon Thee; let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.” With this startling evidence of her husband’s murder, Lady Julia enlists the assistance of Brisbane and the hunt ensues.

In this gripping first installment, Ms. Raybourn weaves a complex window into Victorian life, with all its restraints and formalities and disadvantages. The plot is gripping and moves along at a very smart clip. The method of death is ingenious, as is the murder weapon itself. Many times I was certain I had discovered the one piece of evidence that would damn a certain character or another, only to find I was mistaken.

Likewise, I felt a deep connection to Lady Julia. A trying time in her life is only made worse by the reopening of fresh wounds by the discoveries she makes on her investigation. What she turns up changes her life irrevocably, in ways that I myself fully relate to at times and at others are completely foreign. Lady Julia grows from a mousy woman who seeks only to please others and through her trials begins to transform a strong and confident woman.

Lady Julia Grey Mysteries are told in first person from Lady Julia’s perspective, and in past tense.

My Thoughts:
I first picked up this book on the recommendation of a store clerk as I browsed for Jane Austen Fan Fiction. I found myself enthralled with the story, much more enwrapped than I have ever been in any of Agatha Christie’s books. Each chapter begins with quotes from Shakespeare or other well known literary works, which once the full story is known make complete sense and until then just confuse a reader. Overall it’s a wonderful novel, and easily the best mystery I’ve read.

Oh, and don’t let the new covers, which make it look like a sordid romance novel, throw you. It really is a mystery.

Favorite Scene:
Julia’s walk with Portia in Hyde Park was great.

Who this book is best for:
An adult mystery dealing with some adult topics, I’d keep these for either very advanced High Schoolers or those who have reached their Majority.

Violence: 3 of 5, for murder, suicide and other such unpleasantness.

Stars: 4.5 of 5

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