Sunday, March 16, 2008

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

"Let the wicked 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 them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry 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.

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.

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.

Just recently I seem to have been reading a few historical mysteries set in Victorian times. The fact that they have all featured young women as the heroines, and that two of the three heroines were young widows is probably nothing more than a coincidence right? Fortunately, regardless of that very superficial similarity to Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive (which I haven't yet reviewed, but very much enjoyed), they are both very different books.

Silent in the Grave opens with the death of Lady Julia Grey's husband Edward. Edward and Julia had grown up together, and when he proposed Julia was happy to enter into a marriage with a man that she knew that she liked, even if there was no great love story between them. And she was basically happy. She knew that Edward suffered from what was considered a family affliction - a weak heart, so when Edward suffers a fatal attack in the midst of a dinner party, she is of course upset. However, when she is approached by Mr Nicholas Brisbane, an investigator her husband had hired to look into a matter for him, and Mr Brisbane suggests that Edward may have been murdered, Julia thinks that there could be nothing further from the truth and dismisses his claim.

A year later, Julia has been in full mourning for the whole period, and is looking forward to the day when she go into half mourning, even knowing that she will shock some of the more traditional members of her family who expect her to remain in mourning forever. When she goes into Edwards office, she is surprised to find something that confirms Nicholas' suspicions of the previous year and therefore approaches him to open an investigation into Edward's death. Nicholas does not want to get involved, knowing that the trail of the killer, if there is one, is well and truly cold, but eventually Julia convinces him to investigate, with her assistance of course.

What follows is the upheaval of everything that Julia thought to be true about her husband and her marriage, and indeed some of the people still living within her household.

The dynamic between Julia and Nicholas is intense to say the least.

She is determined to shake off her staid and obedient persona that she had during her marriage and before, and be more wilful and independent, much to her father's pleasure. She has long been the most boring member of his family, the rest of whom are known to be somewhat eccentric.

Nicholas is my kind of man. He is dark and secretive, tormented and honourable, whilst still managing to skirt around the edge of many of society's rule. He is not who he at first appears to be, and as we get to know more about him, his background gives a terrific scope for both character and plot development.

In a way, Deanna Raybourn seems to come from the school of writing where there is a hook at the end of every chapter to try and keep you reading the next chapter, and the next chapter and the next. Even the very last line of the book is a hook to get you to pick up the next book. What can I say other than she caught me! I can't wait to read the next book!

This was a terrific read, lots of twists and turns along the way to a very interesting conclusion. It features two very interesting characters, with a good array of secondary characters, my favourite of which was the butler who was a former circus performer, and a really strong story.

Highly recommended!


  1. I reviewed this book just a day after you did, Marge! I'm glad to hear it has a very different story than "And Only to Deceive," as I have that book on my TBR pile as well and I'm afraid of suffering from Victorian mystery burnout.

  2. Whilst there are definitely similar elements, I think they are sufficiently different from each other to not be worried about VMB - Victorian Mystery Burnout!