Thursday, October 9, 2008
Silent in the Grave: Review
Book: Silent in the Grave
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Series: Julia Grey, Book 1
Very rarely do I come across a book that I lose sleep over. Even if I really like a book, most times I am able to put it down when it's time for bed. Only the books that go beyond enjoyable to enter great status are able to leave me sleep deprived. So as I sit here rubbing my tired eyes and yawning over the keyboard, I can honestly say that Silent in the Grave was one of those books. A great one, that is.
From the first sentence in which Lady Julia Grey is looking upon her husbands convulsing body as he dies on the marble floor, I was hooked.
"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husbands dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor."
From this point forward, I knew that this book would be a special one.
In 1886 London, Lady Julia Grey has just lost her husband Edward to a weak heart, leaving her a young widow. Though Julia knew that her husband was ill, and had been prepared for his death, she is left not knowing what to do with herself now that she is no longer a wife to Edward. She decides that after her year of mourning is over that she will leave London to join two of her brothers in Italy. But her plans are thwarted when the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane brings to her attention that her husband had hired him prior to his death after receiving ominous letters that he believed threatened his life. Brisbane is convinced that The young Mr. Grey was hurried along to his grave by the writer of the letters. Julia dismisses Brisbane's claims, thinking him to be cruel to come to her saying such things after her husband had just died. She believes that Edward's death was natural and that the letters were nothing more than a jest. But the seeds of doubt have been planted.
A year passes and Julia is just coming out of her widow weeds, when while cleaning her husbands study she comes across a letter addressed to him with malicious intent. Brisbane's words come back to her of the letters that her husband had been receiving, and Julia realizes that there is a good chance that her husband was murdered. She takes this evidence to Brisbane to ask for his help in finding her husbands murderer. To Julia's dismay, Brisbane is aggravatingly nonchalant about the matter now that a year has passed since he brought it to her attention. After threatening to find the murderer alone, he relents and agrees to help her. Through their investigation, Julia's eyes are opened to the people around her, revealing their darkest secrets, and bringing her unwittingly close to the murderer.
I really loved this book. Lady Julia Grey's smart narrative along with her blind innocence in some matters while being overly wise in others made her a very real and very relatable heroine/protagonist. Before the death of her husband, Julia's life fit into a perfect little box. She was a wife, a daughter, and a sister. Coming from a family of daring individuals, Julia was simply boring. She spent so much of her life trying to be unlike her eccentric family members, and attempting to be the wife that her husband wanted, that she had lost herself in a world of self imposed normality.
After her husband's death, Julia is slowly able to spread her wings. She stops caring so much about what she should do and does what she wants to do. The growth of Julia's character was one of the highlights of the book, another being Nicholas Brisbane. Brisbane is dark, brooding and elusive, while remaining honorable. The fact that Julia is so put out by him, when she is normally the picture of control, made for a delightful budding romance. And then there's the supporting cast of characters that consists of largely of Julia's family, her service staff, those who aid in the investigation, and the occasional pet. With a cast so large it would be easy to forget and mix the characters. To the credit of Ms. Raybourn, that never happened. Each of the characters introduced had personality and were brought to life through Julia's eyes.
Silent in the Grave was a great book. From the opening scene--to the witty and self deprecating humor of Lady Julia Grey, to the cast of characters that add an eclectic mix of eccentricity, nobility, scandal, and pride--right down to the very last word, I was thoroughly immersed in the story. The second in the series, Silent in the Sanctuary, is waiting for me on my nightstand. More sleepless nights ahead of me, I think. Grade A.