Lady Julia Grey is the type who does her duty. Except, of course, when she is adhering to the family motto audeo, or I dare. Apparently, she comes from a long line of upper-crust miscreants, which saves the gripping Silent in the Grave set in the late 1880s, from being just another Gothic mystery or Victorian romance.
When Julia's husband Edward dies suddenly, she thinks his death was the natural result of an inherited heart ailment he'd had since childhood. But months later, she finds a note that indicates her husband was being threatened, and she decides to accept the offer of help from a mysterious private investigator, Nicholas Brisbane. The sexual tension between these two is pleasingly taut. Julia is remarkably broad-minded for a Victorian aristocrat, and as the novel (and her character) develops, she is pulled slowly but surely from the restrictions of her priggish social sphere, revealing a more daring personality.
Together, Julia and Nicholas come upon clues that lead them to a seamstress' cottage, a gypsy camp and her servants' quarters. The entertainment factor is high, and the characters are so appealing that I devoured the book to find out what would happen to them next. The final resolution is anything but predictable a true puzzle that in turn delights and appalls, with a nod to Wuthering Heights. Author Deanna Raybourn lures the reader in like a skilled hunter. Early on, period details of fashion, etiquette, flowers and servants lull you into believing this is a delightful tale about a widow bent on having some investigative fun. However, these soon give way to dark, lurid accounts of the most un-Victorian behavior, as Julia and Nicholas discover truths about Edward that she never could have imagined. The ending screams sequel I'll certainly look for the next one. Linda White is a writer in St. Paul, Minnesota.