Saturday, October 24, 2009
"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 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.
My first by this author, I'd heard good things about this book, so I decided to venture into this mystery series starring Lady Julia Grey and the dark and mysterious Nicholas Brisbane.
I liked it.
This is the story of recently widowed Lady Julia Grey, an aristocratic young woman who must face the trials and tribulations of being a young widow in Victorian London in which wearing black and being in mourning is her - and her family's - chief concern in life. After her husband's death, she is visited by an unusual sort of man, Nicholas Brisbane who turns out to be a private detective or sorts that tells her he thinks her husband had been murdered. She finds this scenario unlikely since her husband, Edward, had already been dying from a weak heart for years - a family trait. She curtly dismisses Brisbane's allegations, but a year later she has reason to believe his story after finding a shocking piece of evidence that confirms he may have been right.
The two of them team up to try and find the murderer. They become unlikely partners. He is darkly handsome, but very mysterious and brooding with a slight Scottish accent, no less. He also suffers from a mysterious disease that she worries about. He introduces her to some likeable side characters, such as a French former courtesan and a young Jewish doctor. Yet I was drawn to the relationship between Nicholas and Lady Julia. As a young widow she slowly comes into her own right. Her marriage had not been a terribly happy one though she was fond of her deceased husband, but he controlled her life. Told her what to eat, what to wear, how to decorate, she did not become her own woman until after he died. She comes from a large eccentric family by the name of March and we are introduced to her various siblings and family members, some of whom live with her.
Although Lady Julia and Brisbane have a business relationship, there is a definite attraction between the two. She is young and good looking as is he, yet they resist the temptation, though it is always simmering, waiting to let off a little steam. She resists it, for she feel she must for proprieties sake, though everyone seems to be encouraging her to take a lover. He resists it because he feels he cannot be gentleman enough for her. His background is dubious, though outwardly he is a gentleman. He is also out to solve the mystery surrounding her husband's death and does not want to complicate things by becoming romantically involved with the widow of the man he was working for. I feel he also refrains from becoming involved with her because of his illness that comes and goes and - his passion. There are strong hints throughout the book that if given the chance, Brisbane would be a highly passionate lover and must keep himself in check with Julia. I'd like to think that at times the temptation is too great and he must stay away from her.
Of course, this is all conjecture, we are never inside Brisbane's head, the story is all from Lady Julia's point of view, and she is clueless about Brisbane's feelings towards her, though it is obvious to the reader. Did I mention how handsome and brooding he is - and those swarthy dark good looks? Right up my alley! It's also obvious to the reader that Julia is preoccupied with thoughts on Brisbane as well. She denies it, but she's attracted to him, though she keeps telling herself he's not her type - right! Of course she is also interested in finding out what killed her husband and by whom. As we get closer to the end of the story, revelations are revealed and there are plenty of surprises!
I did not guess who the murderer was, and although I found parts of the story rambling and unnecessary, I enjoyed listening to it, although the narrator could have been better. She had a tendency to mispronounce words which I found distracting. I kept wanting to correct her! Aside from that, it was a clever mystery and gave me a view of Victorian life and it's seamier sides. I learned a lot about Victorian condoms, pornography, prostitutes and gypsies, and it was all interesting and helped with the local flavor and appeal of the book, though I do not understand what was the point of a stolen Tower Raven that is part of the plot (I knew nothing about these special ravens of the Queen's before reading this book). It winds up helping Julia near the end of the book, but it seemed very anticlimatic. I would have thought the raven would have had more to do with the overall mystery! I also found that some conversations with her sister and aunt just seemed meaningless and stupid. But, these are small complaints, overall I looked forward to listening to the story and found myself getting wrapped up in the aura of it's mystery.
This is the first in a series of three mysteries involving Lady Julia and Brisbane and I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of them - I can't wait to find out if they ever get together!