Author: Deanna Raybourn
Provided Synopsis: “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 long-standing 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.
Review: I am so conflicted about what to make of this novel! On the one hand, I really enjoyed it, but on the other hand there was a disappointing aspect of it.
If we begin at what I enjoyed about this book then we must talk about the characters. Lady Julia Grey is an aristocratic woman that is widowed at the beginning of the novel. Not long after his death, she is alerted by an acquaintance of her late husband that he had fears for his life; therefore his death might have been at the hands of others rather than of a natural cause. I took to Julia as a main character very quickly. She makes a shift during her first year of widowhood from a quiet woman to a woman with the strength to follow her convictions – or at least she follows them enough to launch into an investigation about her husband’s death; further alterations to her life are left to be seen in further books. Her narrative tone was easy to follow, and I really enjoyed the dialogue in this book. I felt that all of the characters came alive to dance off the pages.
Another character that I liked was Nicholas Brisbane, also known at the acquaintance of Julia’s husband. He works as a private investigator and assists Julia. There was something so magnetic about him as a character, leaving me to feel as drawn to him as Julia was. There are also plenty of secrets and surprises about him to uncover throughout the novel. Brisbane is not your typical male hero. Nor is his relationship with Julia cookie-cutter of what you would expect. Instead of throwing them together in the heat of passion, Deanna Raybourn is allowing their relationship to play out slowly and befitting of both their personas.
As for what disappointed me about this novel: the mystery plot. Because Julia does not take heed to Brisbane’s warning, she waits a year before she opens an investigation into Sir Edward Grey’s murder. The passage of time left very little clues or leads to follow, which in turn made the mystery very dull as it puttered along. I found myself not really caring about who killed the man; instead, I was much more interested in being able to learn about and enjoy the characters. Considering that this is a mystery novel that is not the best compliment to bequeath. However, I can offer some better news when I say that things pick up quickly towards the end of the story. The responsible party for the murder along with the reasoning behind it was something that I never guessed nor would have ever thought of. Still, I am going to hold out hope that the mysteries in further books of the series are a bit more engaging since the characters are already a delight.