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).
After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia's eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband's family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband's death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?
Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.
Maybe 3.7 stars? I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first 3 volumes. Part of this, I’m sure is because Julia and Nicholas are a married couple now, so the romantic suspense dimension of the narrative is much more limited. We know that they are unlikely to part, that they care about each other a great deal, so the author must re-create that tension with differences of opinion regarding their matrimonial roles. Slightly less effective for me than the courtship question.
The mystery plot reminded me rather of M.M. Kaye’s mysteries, like Death in Kashmir. I can see why the author chose the place--it’s exotic to those of us in North America and Europe, plus it was part of the British Empire during the time period. She had sent Jane there in the previous book, so it made sense to have Portia and Julia follow her in this volume. However, I find I prefer Victorian plots set in England, so this may be another reason that I prefer the previous books.
However, the setting stirred up memories of the days I spent in Assam and Bhutan in 2010, seeing the dark green tea plantations, laden elephants on the edges of the roads, and the many prayer flags and prayer wheels along our route. Good memories of a beautiful place and encounters with many friendly people.
A herd of wild elephants drinks at a river in Assam
Prayer flags across a river in Bhutan
Many prayer flags on the high pass of Chele La, in Bhutan