Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Silent in the Sanctuary [Review]

Title: Silent in the Sanctuary

Author: Deanna Raybourn (her blog)

Copyright: 2008, Mira,Books, London UK

Genre: Mystery

Length: 560 pages

Summary: A sequel to Silent in the Grave, this book opens with Lady Julia Grey and her two brothers being called home from Italy by their father, to Bellmont Abbey, a former monastery. It is the holiday season and Lady Julia returns to find that a mixed party of family and friends have gathered together for Christmas. The family is in fine fettle but throughout the Christmas celebration, we have sightings of ghosts, stolen family jewels (is it a kleptomaniac aunt or gypsies as reputed?), secret passages, and several mismatched couples, one of which consists of Nicholas Brisbane and a Dresden doll of a fiancee. A snow storm isolates the Abbey, and the groundwork is laid for a classic style English country-house mystery. When a murder occurs, the Earl March is dependent upon the two of them, Julia and Nicholas, for a solution to the murder. Just as in the previous book, the pacing is good and the final third of the book is twisting and tangled. The entire story is told through Julia's viewpoint and she is delightfully fallible in some of her assumptions.

Extract: I seated myself and sighed. There are few greater pleasures in life than a devoted butler. I counted myself very fortunate to have secured the services of Acquinas. I had offered him an outrageous sum to leave his previous employer, an act that had stricken me from that particular hostess' guest lists for eternity. It was a small price to pay for such competence, I reminded myself as he served a generous portion of the delicious kedgeree.

While I ate, Acquinas busied himself at the sideboard. I had just popped the last piece of buttery toast into my mouth when I had a thought.

"Acquinas, did Uncle Fly and Mr. Snow spend the night, or did they return to Blessingstoke last night?"

Also Relevant: Mira Books is an imprint of Harlequin, best known as a publisher of romance novels. Before anyone sniffs in disdain, let me say that while Silent in the Sanctuary certainly has paragraphs redolent of a bodice-buster, Deanna Raybourn demonstrates a capacity for twisting a variety of plot threads into a surprisingly plausible (if not entirely realistic) mystery. She also delivers her tale with a certain flick of wittiness that many modern writers sacrifice in the interests of creating more realistic detectives. Certainly, Lady Julia is not the Victorian female equivalent of Sherlock Holmes in solving mysteries; she makes mistakes. She botches it now and again, even when trying to follow a phantom through the halls of her ancestral home. Even if she retrieves missing jewels through mishap rather than ratiocination, she is not incompetent and she is rather likeable. I would like her even more if she could quit breathing quite so heavily every time she's within a foot of Nicholas Brisbane, but as a fun, light read, one could do worse than this one.

JenClair did a brief review of Silent in the Grave here; numerous characters from that first book reappear in this one. I would imagine that they will reappear in the third book in the series, Silent in the Moor (due out in 2009)