by Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia Grey is back. She has spent six wonderful, relaxing months in Italy with her brothers Plum and Lysander, Lysander’s new wife Violante, and their friend Alessandro, but her father has summoned the lot of them home for Christmas. While Julia is sad to leave Italy she finds herself looking forward to spending the holidays with her family in her childhood home, Bellmont Abbey. When Julia and her travelling companions arrive at Bellmont Abbey, she finds that some things have changed since she left England six months ago — most notably, Nicholas Brisbane is engaged. Brisbane and Julia had previously worked together to solve the mystery of her husband’s murder and Julia had thought there were mutual feelings of attraction between the two of them but she had not heard from him during her six month absence and is understandably stung to bear witness to his engagement. Brisbane’s presence at the abbey, engagement or no, is puzzling to Julia since she did not believe Brisbane and her father to be close friends but it is just one of the many mysteries to be solved during the holiday at the abbey. Only a few days after everyone arrives, one of the guests is found murdered in the chapel and one of Julia’s cousins confesses to the deed. Julia’s father thrusts her and Brisbane together asking them to work together to get to the bottom of the murder. Brisbane is not happy but agrees and Julia is more than happy to lend a hand and show Brisbane her value as a partner. Love, murder, engagements, stolen jewels, ghosts, missing persons, and much more await the guests of Bellmont Abbey this Christmas!
Reaction: It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a series enough to read two books (in this case all the books) in the series one right after the other. I was ready to give Lady Julia a break for awhile and pick the series up again in a few months time until I read that Brisbane is engaged in Silent in the Sanctuary and I just had to find out more! Brisbane is just as wonderful as he was in the first book…still dark, brooding, enigmatic…although there is little development of his character. Julia took a bit of a dive for me in this installment. She seemed to take all of her frustrations out on Morag. Instead of the give and take they had in the first book it seemed more like a lofty lady scolding her lesser maid in this book. Also, while Julia tried to become more of an independent woman on equal stature with the men in her life, she seemed to get dumber. She withheld information from Brisbane out of spite — I can tell you that is never good in a murder investigation — and at one time she did something so stupid I completely lost faith in her for that moment. This is what happened: She was following a ghost she knew not to be a ghost but someone masquerading as a ghost. She lost sight of the ghost as it went down the stairs and when she caught up with it again it moaned and for a moment she forgot it wasn’t a real ghost and screamed. SHE FORGOT IT WASN’T A REAL GHOST! I mean, COME ON! She traipses around at night in the dark all the time and she screams at a fake ghost?!?!?! Wow. Finally, Raybourn uses some of the same language in both books. For example, after Julia consults Magda, the Roma woman who used to be in Julia’s employ, Julia thinks, “I had little doubt our paths would cross again some day.” I believe she said this exact or almost exact same thing in the first book. I understand the tactic the author is using but I’m not sure I like it. Maybe it is simply because I have read the books back to back and the first is still so fresh in my mind.
Despite my negativity I can’t help but be excited for the next Lady Julia Grey installment. I love the colorful cast of characters and feel emotionally invested in Julia, Brisbane, and the relationship building between the two. Silent in the Sanctuary is still a satisfying historical mystery with many twists and turns, side plots, and ghouls. It is definitely a fun read and a fun series.
What’s next: Silent on the Moor which, according to Deanna Raybourns’ blog, will be out in March 2009.
Previously: Don’t forget to check out the first book in the series, Silent in the Grave. You don’t have to read the first one to enjoy the second and Raybourn does not give a lot of facts away about the first in the second which I love because that means if people stumble upon the second before reading the first the first won’t be ruined, if that makes sense. Anyway, check them both out! :)