Fans of mystery, historical fiction and romance will all find something to like in Deanna Raybourn's highly enjoyable Silent in the Grave (FIC RAYBOURN), the first title in the Lady Julia Grey series.
Raybourn plunges readers into the action from Page 1, where we find Lady Julia's husband, Edward Grey, in his death throes at a dinner party. After her husband's abrupt death, Lady Julia is approached by the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane, a private inquiry agent recently hired by Edwards to look into a series of written threats he'd received. Brisbane suspects foul play in Edward Grey's death.
Widowhood proves a turning point for Lady Julia, until now a proper Victorian wife who's felt increasingly stifled in a passionless marriage. Although there was affection between her and her husband, their relationship has never gone much further than their childhood fondness for each other. She blossoms into her own as she investigates her husband's murder.
This development is further enlivened by her repartee with the obstinate Brisbane, a loner if there ever was one, who's extremely reluctant to work with Lady Julia. His anti-social tendencies, crankiness and mysterious past (not to mysterious abilities), coupled with Julia's growing self-confidence and her determination to find the killer make for extremely entertaining scenes.
Set in 1886, the story also introduces us to Lady Julia's family, the Marches, for whom eccentricity is a birthright just as much as their aristocracy is. We also meet many of the servants in Julia's household. Many of these people will play important and surprising roles in the secrets that Julia and Brisbane unearth in this story.
Silent in the Grave is a historical mystery with romantic elements. Although the sensuality in this book is mild, when Julia and Brisbane are in the same room together, Raybourn's writing makes their attraction crackle. I quite like the pace of their relationship as well; the author has opted for a slow but steady trickle of development rather than a torrent. This means there's much to look forward to in the four novels that follow in the series.