Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Silent In The Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Title: Silent In The Grave
Author: Deanna Raybourn

Type: Historical Romance / Mystery
Published: 2007

Blurb: "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.

Why: Blogger buzz--sometime last year--put this one on my TBR list. New buzz, this one surrounding another Raybourn release this Spring, called it to mind.

Thoughts: Easily hooked. By its first person narrative, self-depracating humor and English sleuthing. And yes, I pretty much swallowed the hook at the first line (just as many of you reported):

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor."

There was a rhythm to Silent In The Grave and it took me a bit to settle into it. At first, I was simply surprised. SITG was not at all what I expected. I started page one without having read the blurb, without having visited the author's website. So the first person narrative was a surprise. Second, SITG is relatively slow-paced. It felt open-ended, more an unfurling than a complete story. Not sure when I started to wonder about its destination--and whether it would take chapters or books to get there--but I think it was early.

Once I settled down, I began to enjoy and appreciate the narrator's uncertainty. She had an outside-looking-in perspective, even when examining her own life, her own thoughts. That detachment was something I could relate to and I thought Raybourn conveyed it honestly and without prejudice. As though Raybourn could care less if we liked her heroine. She is who she is--neither a convenient product of her environment nor an emotionally-wrought survivor. Personally, I liked her. Although she was unremarkable, she had that maturity about her--the kind of maturity that brings her to step around the opinions of her peers and do what she likes.

Combined with a lethal sense of humor, Julia's mature self reminded me of Captain Lacey--another English sleuth with his own multi-book deal (authored by Ashley Gardner). From here, I became more interested in clues than character development. Raybourn's stubborn pace held me fast however, and I had to sit as impatiently as Julia, waiting for more of the puzzle pieces. I'm not sure I liked Raybourn's refusal to move the story along here. I didn't mind the mystery of Brisbane so much, but I did grow weary everytime Julia was relegated to tidying up this or that room. She seemed to alternate between an active and passive role--in her own life. Artfully done by Raybourn, but difficult to watch for the reader.

As for Brisbane, he was the perfect ass. And flawed beyond the heroine and reader's understanding. I have to say I stuck with Julia on this--curiously affected in some moments and bored in others. I'm fairly certain I was less naive than Julia though. I figured him for a gypsy early on. Julia seemed oblivious to all of those clues. Dumb even. Not sure if Raybourn was going for dumb there, or if she meant for Julia to simply appear distracted by her own coming of age issues. Whatever the intent, the outcome was, well, dumb. Fitting as I read on though...because its her narrative and, more than once, she tells us readers she can be a bit stupid.

As for the whodunit, Raybourn wrapped that to my satisfaction. Really, by then, I was back to caring more about character growth than crime-solving. By this time, I was thoroughly engrossed in Julia's detachment, contrasting it to her father's flamboyance and her sister's bleeding edge sexuality. Trying to reconcile Julia's automaton with her occasional wit and daring. Interesting stuff.

Interesting enough that I've already received the second installment--Silent In The Sanctuary--through my library and am contemplating buying the third on my next grocery trip.

Word On The Web:

Rosario, unimpressed

Carolyn Jean, "wonderfully gothic"

The Book Smugglers, "a stunner of a debut"

Musings of a Bibliophile, A

Reading Adventures, "A terrific read."

My Two Cents, "Excellent debut novel."

You can buy Silent In The Grave here.


  1. OH, interesting! You thought her dumb. I sort of didn't, but I missed the gypsy clues, too. But can you imagine how fabulous the reveal was to me? It made it SO exciting, and just that visual! And that kiss! Uh, I had to grab the second book instantly, too. But I have other reading in front of it. Oh, hey, thanks for the shout out!!!

  2. Someone gave this book to me and it's interesting so far. Good writing, a believable hero and heroine, interesting events, a mystery, and some subtle humor.

  3. Carolyn Jean - Hmmmm, maybe dumb isn't the right word. I don't know. Crazy, but I related to a lot in Julia's character--and while I wouldn't call myself dumb (LOL), I will admit to being purposefully oblivious at times...selfishly choosing what I will allow to occupy my headspace. That may have been what I was going for there...not sure if Raybourn intended for Julia to spend as little headspace on Brisbane as she did (thus missing those clues) or if the clues were really meant to be missed (and I'm just super clever, LMAO!, not). Regardless, the result was an overall feeling...in keeping with that of apathy or detachment. Good stuff.

    Happy to hear you are enjoying it Elizabeth!


Have you read it? What do you think?

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