October 2010, Historical Mystery (Victorian India)
Mira, $14.95, 400 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778328201 Part of a series
This review contains series spoilers.
Filled with complex adult characters, beautifully evocative prose, and an intriguing mystery, the latest entry in the Lady Julia Grey series does not disappoint. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries with a strong romantic thread, I highly recommend you read Silent in the Grave, the first book in the series. You will not want to miss the character development that occurs across the series before reading this one.
As the book begins, Julia is traveling through India with her brother Plum and sister Portia, headed for a remote tea plantation. Julia and Brisbane’s eight-month honeymoon was disrupted in Egypt by Portia’s insistence that the two accompany them to the tea planation where her former lover Jane lives. Jane is pregnant, and a recent widow. Portia suspects that Jane’s husband was murdered, and that Jane may be in danger as well.
The four travel by boat to India, with both Julia and Brisbane keeping secrets from each other. When Brisbane learns some of what Julia is hiding, he refuses to go to the plantation with the others, saying he will follow later.
The tea plantation is in a beautiful, exotic, but deadly part of India, with a killer tiger roaming nearby. As Julia investigates, she discovers an odd community of people within the vicinity, including some from her past.
While this is a mystery, Julia and Brisbane’s relationship is central. This is a wonderful example of how interesting, and romantic a book that takes place after a wedding can be. Julia and Brisbane are feeling their way, trying to learn how to deal with each other without losing themselves. They’re strong personalities, and clash frequently. I worried that Brisbane and Julia would be apart the whole book, but that was not the case.
Theirs is a real, adult relationship. Brisbane wants to protect Julia, while she wants to be involved in his detective work. She will not suffer through another protected, proper marriage. I loved when we started learning some of Brisbane’s secrets; in addition to being gorgeous, the man is brilliant. And the depth of their feelings for each other? Breathtaking.
I found the secondary characters – both returning and new – fascinating. Even seemingly minor characters have layer upon layer that are slowly peeled away. I especially love the relationship between Julia and her sister, how they prop each other up and criticize each other when needed.
I read a lot of mysteries, and this held a number of surprises for me. While there are some funny moments, there’s a lot of sorrow. While there is no graphic violence, the author’s skilled prose provides some emotionally wrenching moments. If you prefer a light-hearted read, this isn’t for you. But if you want real, deeply complex characters, with serious issues and adult problems, this might well be to your taste.
When reading a series, there’s always a fear that the latest book won’t live up to earlier entries. I’ve begun so many series, enthused about the first book, only to be disappointed with subsequent entries, and that was my initial fear with this series. I’ve decided to put that fear away, once and for all, because honestly, each entry has been better than the last. The ending to this book is so deliciously intriguing, I can barely wait for the next.
-- LinnieGayl Kimmel
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