Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I’ve noticed that I’ve posted at least one Retro Friday review per month this year but I still don’t have one for December. I don’t want to break the streak so here I am, squeezing one last review before the year is out. Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn, the first book in the Lady Julia series, seems like the perfect choice for this. I used to read mysteries back in high school because I just borrowed anything that I could from friends. I think I was never really into it because I thought some of the aspects of mystery novels, such as murder, are creepy and I’m a scaredy-cat. I was looking for a cozy read this December and I’ve heard such good things about the Lady Julia Grey series that I decided to pick it up. Also, the second book in the series is set during Christmastime so it’s the perfect read for this time of the year.

Here’s the summary from Deanna Raybourn’s website:

“Let the wicked be ashamed. 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.

This book has a winner of a start. Here are the first few lines:

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 on the floor.

Those lines immediately make you curious as a reader and you can’t help but be drawn into the story. I was determined to find out who this Nicholas Brisbane was and why Lady Julia’s husband was twitching on the floor. December is such a busy time of the year so I read this book in bits and pieces. I remember there was one time when I read this in a coffee shop while waiting and some of the scenes had me smiling (another moment of crazy person smiling to herself while reading on her Kindle). I was frustrated that I didn’t have enough time to read the past few weeks because I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know both Julia and Nicholas Brisbane in this first novel. Smart and sassy Julia, who slowly starts to come out of her shell after her husband passes away. And the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane – tall, dark, brooding and with an unusual past. These two are forced to work together to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Julia’s husband.

There are so many delightful aspects of this novel that just worked for me: the wild and unconventional March family, the banter and hint of romance between Julia and Brisbane, the plot that unexpectedly twists and turns. This is a novel (or series) that makes you invest in the characters. I loved Julia’s relationship with her father and I also loved that the Earl is such a liberal and open-minded person for someone living in the Victorian era. I also liked seeing how Julia relates to her sister Portia and her youngest brother Valerius. I have a feeling each book in the series will feature a different March sibling because Julia HAS nine siblings and I’m looking forward to that. I did guess who the murderer was but was completely blindsided by the reasons behind it. I gobbled this up as soon as I had free time on my hands and it made me happy that I finished it and started the second book just in time for Christmas. Silent in the Grave is a good start to a promising series. I’m glad that Deanna Raybourn has a backlist that I can look forward to. Yes to more Julia and Brisbane being partners in solving crime.

So that’s my last Retro Friday post for the year, which was mostly inspired by Angie’s lovely review of Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier (one of my favorite novels). I told her that I should up my game next year and should aim for at least two Retro Friday books per month. Old titles are awesome, you know? And I’m always interested in recommending under-the-radar books. Anyway, hope the rest of you are enjoying the year-end festivities! 🙂

Other reviews:
Angieville
Book Harbinger
Janicu’s Book Blog
Good Books and Good Wine
Tempting Persephone