Saturday, March 20, 2010

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Genre: Mystery, historical bent
Publisher, Year: Mira, 2007
Other Works: Silent in the Sanctuary
Flags: Adult themes, tenuous references
Rating: B, or Decent
Challenges: Countdown, Library
Premise: Lady Julia Grey employs the mysterious Brisbane to find her husband's murderer.

It wasn’t love at first sight with this book, for me. I was very intrigued by the opening chapters, and I was looking forward to a delicious mystery. Although I think Raybourn is a skilled writer, I’m not totally sure mystery is the right genre for her.

The novel opens with the death, in wonderful mystery fashion, of Lady Julia Grey’s husband Edward. A man of sickly constitution, no one is surprised that he’s met an early end—except for one man, Nicholas Brisbane, who claims to have been hired by Edward to investigate chilling death threats. Lady Grey finally comes to put stock in Brisbane’s story when she finds her own piece of evidence to confirm suspicions. And then, the race is on to find the killer! +/-

First of all, I loved her descriptions! Raybourn knows how to paint a picture with words. I could literally see the dresses and hats as she described them in my mind’s eye, which I think she quite a feat--taking into account that it’s hard to do anyway, but the complicated fashion of the period only made it that much more of a challenge. Julia has a wonderfully strange family who surround her. The bickering, the snobbery, the bizarre characters--I really thought it was a nice backdrop. I liked Brisbane, or maybe I wanted to like him--there was something wonderfully Healthcliff-esque about him. But at the same time, he was so brusque that those few tender moments didn’t seem to fit his character.

There was no lack of twists in this story, but I’m sorry to say that in this case I didn’t find it to be a good thing. I felt like these “shocking” moments started to become contrived and predictable . . . to the rolling of the eyes. But, there were redeeming qualities of that as well. Raybourn calls into question our assumptions about certain characters with these revelations. There’s nothing quite so unsettling as finding out that someone you thought you knew well is actually someone else altogether. I haven’t had this experience much, but enough to understand those feelings of betrayal and disloyalty, not to mention that it makes you question a lot of things about yourself and your life as well. We, as the readers, are forced to reconcile what we know of conflicting reports, and then try to figure out true identities. It gave a nice dimension to the story.

This book was slow moving for me. It was not hard at all for me to put this book down, not even when on the verge of another of Julia’s scandalous discoveries. This book did not have the heart-pounding twists that I’m used to and that I also adore. There were things I didn’t like about the book, but it wasn’t all bad. Anyone who enjoys Victorian-period lit I think would quite enjoy this book. For me, it just wasn’t a homerun.

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