Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

Book Description:
Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane's private enquiry business.

Among the more unlikely clients: Julia's very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved—if eccentric—family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation. It leads to the exclusive Ghost Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances…and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall.  From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust.

Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont's sake- and more- they'll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep…

I loved this latest installment in the Lady Julia mysteries, I can say in all honesty it is my favorite to date.  It was nice to have Julia and Brisbane on the same side, for a change.  In the previous books, they've always been at odds with one another.  Lots of brooding from Brisbane's end and Lady Julia wondering what she ever saw in the man in the first place!  Not so in The Dark Enquiry!  Not all is perfect and they're still experiencing the growing pains associated with new marriages, but it was fun and joyful to witness their little differences of opinion.  For the most part, they are comfortable and sympatico with one another.  The word "compromise" has been added to their vocabulary.

The book starts out with Lady Julia and Brisbane back in London and working together solving mysteries, albeit, through Brisbane's gritted teeth. I loved the juicy plot with plenty of twists and turns, murders, séances and now Raybourn has added a spymaster to the mix!  There was more of a light hearted tone in this book as the newlyweds set up house.  I know you'll wince at the comparison, but I found Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Brisbane reminiscent of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.  Julia ignores Brisbane's requests to stay home and be a good wife while choosing instead to dress up in disguise and follow Brisbane around (uninvited) on his sleuthing missions.

Bent on assisting Brisbane in his line of work, Lady Julia is convinced she is helping to keep him safe.  No matter the folly and danger that ensues.  It's not easy being married to a man who faces danger daily.  Especially to someone who doesn't think twice about taking on a gang of ruffians in a back alley or two.    Nothing quite seems to faze Brisbane - except for when it comes to Julia.   Nicholas is forever rescuing her.  She has an uncanny talent for getting herself into tight spots - such as mausoleums.  At the same time, it was gratifying and romantic to see just how much they care for one another.  Brisbane's manliness when it comes to defending Julia's honor and reputation only heightened my adoration of this man.  I simply love the way he takes a (brief) moment to leave their carriage to punch out a pesky newspaper journalist who has printed a disparaging article about Lady Julia. *sigh*  No one is going to get away with "dissing" the wife of Nicholas Brisbane!  (her father's solution was great too!)  Nicholas is delicious when he is jealous as well.  I love his reaction when she blithely informs him of her meeting with the intriguing and very debonair Sir Morgan Fielding.  I very much hope we see more of him in the future!

The mystery behind The Dark Enquiry involves the prevention of a scandal regarding Julia's eldest brother, Bellmont.  A well known politician in the House, Lord Bellmont wants nothing to mar his sterling reputation, particularly the fact that he had been clandestinely carrying on with a well known clairvoyant who has hidden incriminating letters attesting to their affair.  Unfortunately, she is poisoned and dies before Bellmont can get the letters.  Now, Bellmont is being blackmailed.  Brisbane is on the case, with Julia watching his back (so to speak).   It turns out there's more than just getting the letters.  Bellmont could be facing a much bigger scandal regarding treason and secrets to the Germans!

Julia's younger brother Plum, who's now working with Brisbane, lends a hand to the investigation and develops a love interest with a young woman, Lady Felicity, who has left her family home and taken up residence with Julia's sister, Portia.  Poor Plum, nothing seems to last for him in the romance department.  I'm afraid his heart is dashed again when it comes to Lady Felicity.  Will he ever find true love?  As in the previous books, we see quite a lot of Julia's and Brisbane's large families.  Julia, one of ten children, seems to have a myriad of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.  We meet more of Brisbane's extended family here as well, all related on the gypsy side.  Brisbane's gypsy relatives are chock full of surprises.

Overall, I'm really loving Lady Julia and Brisbane as a married couple.  They are an entertaining pair and I've grown to care for them and their ups and downs in life and the enquiry business.  I am sorry for what occurs towards the end of the book regarding their future, but I know it won't keep them down.  I am just glad to see this now familiar couple settling in at last to their new life together.  I'm eager for more adventure!



Anne said...

I have never read a Lady Julia mystery. After reading your great review I am going to be reading one soon!

Joanne said...

I absolutely agree -- I love Julia and Brisbane as a married couple and Raybourn is expertly keeping readers still intrigued with their relationship. There's real depth there now, and of course, so many secret layers yet to be revealed about Brisbane. Raybourn's at the top of her game with this one, and I, for one, can't wait for the next installment. :)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Anne, if you want to read one of these books, read them in order, starting with "Silent in the Grave". You'll like it!

Joanne, I think they're much more interesting together, so I'm enjoying them married much more than before they were married! I think eventually, they'll be like a Victorian Nick and Nora Charles!

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