Friday 15 October 2010

CBR2 Book 93: "Dark Road to Darjeeling" by Deanna Raybourn

Publisher: Mira
Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: October 13th, 2010
Date finished: October 15th, 2010


This is the fourth Lady Julia Grey mystery by Deanna Raybourn, and as such it is impossible for me to review it without there being some spoilers for the plots of the earlier books. I will try not to spoil anything major in the plot for this one, though.

Lady Julia Brisbane, as she is now, after marrying Private Inquiry Agent Nicholas Brisbane at the end of the former book has spent the last nine months travelling around the Mediterranean on her honeymoon. The Brisbanes are intercepted in Egypt by Julia's sister Portia and her brother Plum (actual name Eglantine - all nine March siblings are named after Shakespeare characters). Portia needs them to go to India, where Portia's former lover Jane now lives, recently widowed and pregnant. Portia, having corresponded with Jane for months, is convinced that Jane's husband was murdered, possibly by someone wanting his estate, and that Jane may now be in danger, as she could be carrying an heir.

Marriage is not easy for Julia and Brisbane. Julia wants to be an active partner in Brisbane's investigations, he wants to keep her safe and out of harm's way. When he discovers that Julia kept pertinent facts from him regarding Portia's suspicions, they have a falling out, and Brisbane stays behind in Calcutta while Julia travels with her siblings to the tea plantation in Darjeeling where Jane now resides. Julia is determined to solve the murder of Freddie Cavendish by herself, to prove to Brisbane how useful she could be to him in his investigations.

Once she arrives, she realizes that there is no real proof that Freddie even died of unnatural causes, but closer investigation suggests foul play. The job of ferreting out the killer is not an easy one, there are many inhabitants of the small valley who have extremely likely motives for wanting Mr Cavendish dead - some of them known to Julia and Brisbane of old.

I am a great fan of Deanna Raybourn's previous Julia Grey novels, and was eagerly expecting the arrival of this one. I was delighted to see that while Julia and Brisbane are a married couple now, they are never boring and predictable. Julia is forced to realize some difficult things about herself and new role as a wife, and it takes her siblings to make her see that her point of view is not necessarily the right one. Brisbane is mysterious, and private and short-tempered, but has very good reasons for not wanting Julia anywhere near his work. Their relationship is so heartwarming and fascinating precisely because they care so much for each other, but sometimes have so much trouble communicating.

Another great thing in the book is Julia's relationship with her brother and sister. Portia has been an important supporting character throughout the series, and in this novel, the events started in the Silent on the Moor are finally resolved. I very much liked her and Jane as a couple, and wanted them to have a happy ending at last. Portia is such a tremendously important person in Julia's life, and has observed her relationship with Brisbane from the start. As a result, she can advise her sister, and tell her necessary, if unpopular truths. It was good to see more of Plum, as well, and I find the role being set up for him in later books an intriguing one.

There was one aspect of the ending which I felt was a bit hurried, and seemed a bit like tying off a loose end a bit abruptly, but I shall trust that Deanna Raybourn knows what she's doing, and already look forward to the next mystery the Brisbanes have to solve.

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