I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
"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.
I read this book to fill the Romantic Suspense square of my 2018 Halloween Bingo card. It was also my choice as pre-read, before the beginning of September.
And what a good choice it was! I am so disappointed that Deanna Raybourn didn’t make it to our writers’ conference a couple of weekends ago. It seems that I am going to enjoy her Lady Julia Grey series every bit as much as her Veronica Speedwell series. I’ve only read 3 of her books, so it would seem that I have plenty of pleasurable reading hours ahead of me.
This book has perhaps the best opening lines that I’ve read in a long time: "To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." Those two sentences set the tone for the book, as Julia reluctantly comes to the conclusion that her husband Edward was murdered and that something should be done about it.
It’s a thick volume and the pace is leisurely. However, I found myself eating toast for dinner one evening in lieu of setting it down and actually cooking. It definitely reminded me of both Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart for tone, although I think the mystery portion of the novel was superior to those gothic romances. Romance is an element of Raybourn’s writing, but the mystery is the main concern. When I finally set the book down to go to bed, I was about 90% through it and had two suspects for the murderer, but I was quite prepared to find that I was entirely wrong. The final reveal showed that I had been on the right track and had been skillfully guided there by the author. It all made sense and Raybourn provided really good red herring clues that kept me from being sure in my choice.
Now my only complaint is that my public library doesn’t have the second book in this series. That is only a half-hearted complaint, as it gives me an excuse to visit my favourite used book store in the near future.