Saturday, November 1, 2008

Review: Silent in the Sanctuary

Title: Silent in the Sanctuary
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Lady Julia Grey Mystery/Book 2

Lady Julia Grey journeyed to Italy after her husband was murdered and her home burned to the ground. Italy was to soothe her soul and help her to heal from all of the changes in her life. She is also trying to come to terms with her feelings for the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane. So she spends four months traveling with her older brothers Lysander and Eglamour, also known as Plum. Taking in the sights and beauty of Italy are just what Julia needed. Shortly before Christmas the siblings are ordered back home to England by their father, Lord March. Joining them on their return home is Lysander's Italian wife Violante and their friend Alessandro Fornacci. While Alessandro is a friend of Lysander and Plum he has more than just friendship in mind when it comes to Julia.

In Deanna Raybourn's second novel, set in 1880's Victorian England, Julia is still as refreshing and fascinating as she was in the first book, Silent in the Grave. You can read my review of it here. Raybourn's writing is as sharp as ever with well developed characters and an equally well developed story line. She sets the stage and has this ability to drawn you in and make you feel like you're right there, immersed in the scene, watching as everything unfolds around you.

Upon arriving in London the group spends the night in the Grand Hotel with plans to take the train to Sussex in the morning. On their way to the train station Julia is hailed by none other than her sister Portia. Out of Julia's nine siblings Portia is the one she is closest to. Portia is such a fun character. She is widowed, same as Julia but instead of remarrying she took a lover, her late husband's cousin Jane. Portia is funny with a sharp mind and at times an equally sharp tongue. Julia discovers from Portia that Bellmont Abbey, the March country estate, has "a house full of guests" even though Christmas is almost a month away. This leads the sister to believe that their father is up to something.

They make their way to Bellmont Abbey and arrive in time to retire to their rooms to rest and refresh themselves before dinner. As everyone gathers in the hall prior to dinner Julia's father calls her over to him and introduces her to Lord Wargrave or as Julia knows him, Nicholas Brisbane.

Nicholas Brisbane assisted Julia in solving her late husband's murder in Silent in the Grave. Brisbane is a mysterious man who prefers to keep his past to himself. He works as a type of private investigator with his clients mainly among the upper classes of London. He is the kind of man women find fascinating not only because of his good looks but because of the air of danger and the sense of forbidden that surround him. He cares for and is attracted Julia but tells her has no plans to ever marry a woman of wealth. Marriage is the only way he thinks he can have Julia and so because of her wealth he considers her off limits.

As it turns out, Brisbane did not come alone to the Abbey. When Julia is introduced to Brisbane's fiancé my heart broke a little for her. I actually had to stop reading for a few moments. Of course Julia and I both recovered and got through the meeting. When Portia inquires about Julia meeting Mrs. King, Brisbane's fiancé, her response is so typical Julia, I just couldn't help but think "Good for her!".

Portia's eyes narrowed. "You are not shattered. You are smiling. What are you about?"

"Nothing," I told her firmly. "But I have my pride. And as you pointed out," I said with a nod toward Alessandro, "I have alternatives."...

Portia poked me. "What are you thinking?"...

"I was simply thinking what a delight it will be to introduce Alessandro to Brisbane."

pages 87- 88

Even Raybourn's secondary characters come to life. One such example is the venerable Aunt Dorcas. The description of her is so vivid I can easily picture her residing over the room.

"Aunt Dorcas had established herself in the armchair nearest the fire, and it looked as though it would take all of the Queen's army to roust her out of it. No one would call her plump, for plumpness implies something jolly or pleasant, and Aunt Dorcas was neither of those. She was solid, with a sense of permanence about her, as though she had always existed and meant to go on doing so forever. Disturbingly for a woman of her size and age, she had a penchant for girlish ruffles and bows...

...She had gone yellow with age, like vellum, and every bit of her was the colour of stained ivory - teeth, hair, skin, and the long nails that tapped out a tuneless melody on the arm of her chair. But her eyesight was sharp and her hearing even better."

page 88

The secondary characters all play a role in the story and receive wonderful development from Raybourn. Even Grim, Julia's Tower Raven, is brought to life with his own little quirks.

But central to it all is Julia. She is one of those characters that her personality is so strong and so well developed that I tend to forget what she looks like. At first this may seem as if the author didn't describe her physical appearance well. This is not the case at all. It's just that her physical appearance isn't what is upper most in my mind when reading. If you think of the people you know well and like, what comes to mind isn't how they look but who they are. How they act. What drives them. Their likes and dislikes. What's important to them. That is what comes to mind when I think of Julia.

There is still a murder to solve and a ghost to find. The plot is well paced and holds the readers interest with the twists and turns. I enjoyed finding out the different characters' motives and back stories. The setting of the Abbey is perfect for mystery and ghostly occurrences. All the varied rooms and secret hiding places are well used in the story. So too is the history of the Abbey, adding to the sense of mystery.

We also get to see Julia and Brisbane renew their friendship as well as their attraction to one another. While this is not a romance, there are romantic elements most certainly between Julia and Brisbane. I do believe (and hope) that it will eventually become a more romantic relationship between the two. They fit so well together with their witty banter and their oh so very obvious attraction for one another.

"I will search his rooms," he corrected. "It would be highly inappropriate for you to do so."

I felt a little thrill of pleasure at this demonstration of his regard for me. "You mean because a lady should not be present in an unmarried gentleman's bedchamber," I teased, thinking of the many trips I had made to his own chamber the previous night.

"No," he said slowly, his eyes warm with amusement. "I mean it must be done properly and by a professional. You, my lady, are still an amateur."

He was still laughing when I left him.

pages 334-335

I am completely and utterly in love with this series and can't wait to find out what Raybourn has in store for Julia and Brisbane in her next novel.

The next book in the series, Silent on the Moor, is due out March 2009. If you want to read an interesting and informative blog go to Deanna Raybourn's Blog A Go-Go where she posts about a wonderful variety of thoughts and ideas, not all book related.

Rating: A


  1. I loved the first book in this series, but haven't got around to reading this one yet!

  2. Hi Marg ~ as you can tell I loved it. I even think it's a bit better than the first and I loved the first one.

    I just want more from this author. Wish she had a back list. lol

  3. That is the only problem with discovering a new new author! I love a good backlist myself.