When Lady Julia Grey’s husband, Sir Edward Grey, dies it is not surprising. He is young but has always been in poor health due to a hereditary heart condition. What is surprising is that an unknown man, one Nicholas Brisbane, a private investigator, informs Julia that he does not believe that her husband died of natural causes but was murdered. Brisbane tells Julia that her husband hired him to look into threatening notes he had been receiving. Julia scoffs at the notion and puts Brisbane off until a year later when she finally begins to clear out Edward’s office and finds one of the notes. She contacts Brisbane and pleads with him to help her solve her husband’s murder. Though Brisbane is skeptical that they will be able to find the murderer since the culprit has had a year to cover his misdeed, he reluctantly agrees to help Julia when he sees just how determined she is to find the truth. But is Lady Julia truly prepared for what she learns during the course of her investigation?
Reaction: (Short Version) Really, really liked it but it was a bit long and I had hoped for a bit more development of the relationship between Julia and Brisbane.
(Long Version) I loved the historical elements. While the novel is a mystery it is also a story about Julia finding her place in society during the time period in which she lived (Victorian England). She has money, lots of it since her husband’s death, and has always wanted to be proper and normal compared to her crazy family. Despite her longing to fit in she has a rebellious streak that she cannot ignore. Readers are treated to both sides of her personality, though as the novel develops she definitely cultivates her wild side. The war between propriety and impropriety in Julia is illustrated in many passages, for example in one passage (one that I believe could have been cut) she dresses down one of her brother’s friends, Reddy Phillips, because he forgets to use her proper title, improperly uses her brother’s title, and invites himself in when he should not. Reddy is from a self-made family who has money but no aristocratic background. From what I read his only faults were to gamble a bit too much and not being born an aristocrat. In this passage Julia seems like a huge snob in her manner toward Reddy. But in another passage, when she visits a widow of the parish, she brings books for the children of the household and talks with interest to the widow as if they were peers. She also acknowledges that if she had not been from a family with money she would most certainly be in the widow’s position and the fact that she is not is only a matter of luck of birth. Also, Julia becomes good friends with a known courtesan, someone with whom none of her friends from her time married to Edward would ever associate. Julia is an amalgamation of traditional Victorian values and a rebel bucking what society tells her is proper.
I also adored Brisbane. What a great hero. Very classic. He is tall, dark, and mysterious. Really, there are two mysteries in the book — who killed Edward and who exactly is Nicholas Brisbane. Why does Brisbane get such awful headaches? Where does Brisbane come from? What is that slight accent he has? <Sigh> Like I said, one of my few regrets about the novel is the lack of relationship development between Brisbane and Julia. Julia’s family pushed the two together when the opportunity arose and it was obvious they had feelings for one another but nothing ever came of it besides one heated kiss. Just one! I understand Julia has a lot of growing up to do and it would be good for her to be independent for awhile and get over her husband, but I still pine for what could have been between the two.
What’s next: Silent in the Sanctuary, the second book in the series, which is already out, and any other book that comes out in the series!
Thank you: To Bookshelves of Doom for putting me on to this novel.