Silent in the Grave -- Deanna Raybourn
Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog with any regularity) knows that I am not a read-in-the-car girl. It makes me want to barf. Highway driving isn't quite as bad as driving around town, as it doesn't have the stops and the starts and the twists and the turns and the changes in speed and oh, yick, I'm making myself ill just thinking about it. What I'm getting at is that if I not only start a book in the car, but continue and finish* it in the car as well, that is a Big Thing.
Silent in the Grave grabbed me from the first paragraph:
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.
Funny! A possible suggestion of future romance (dude, this is how my mind works -- I make predictions based on 27 words)! A twitching body! A mystery (Why is he twitching? Why is he almost dead? Why is the narrator so flip?)! In other words, a hell of a hook!
And then, the next paragraph made me happy, too:
I stared at him, not quite taking in the fact that he had just collapsed at my feet. He lay, curled like a question mark, his evening suit ink-black against the white marble of the floor. He was writhing, his fingers knotted.
The DRAMA! Writhing!
Obviously, I had to continue. And I did. I read the whole thing on the first leg of our journey back home from Indiana. (Luckily, the book had crazy-huge line spacing and short chapters, so I was able to take brief nausea breaks at opportune moments before diving back in.)
After the death of her husband, Lady Julia Grey is informed by Nicholas Brisbane, a private investigator, that Edward had engaged his services because he had been receiving threatening letters. Lady Julia, grieving and insulted, sends Brisbane packing.
A year later, when she begins to clear out Edward's desk, she discovers that Brisbane had been telling the truth. And so she goes to him and insists that they investigate the matter. Together.
Lady Julia's voice was very enjoyable and reminded me a bit of Amelia Peabody's, though I think Amelia tends to be more forthright (when she thinks someone is attractive, she comes out and says it):
Brisbane put one in mind of wolves and lithe jungle cats, while Edward conjured images of seraphim and slim young saints. It required an entirely different aesthetic altogether to appreciate Brisbane, one that I lacked. Entirely.
Like Peabody, Julia is one of those familiar** raised-in-unusual-family-situation-therefore-less-inclined-to-worry-about-social-conventions-of-the-time female characters. (And yes, there is a scene where she dresses up like a man.) She has an unfortunate habit of being almost unforgivably dense on occasion, but about halfway through, I realized that it isn't due to a lack of brainpower on her part, but a lack of patience. There were a lot of situations where if she'd just waited and thought for 30 seconds, even, she'd have avoided the problem or the ridiculous comment. So I was happy with that -- I'd much rather read about someone who is rash than someone who is dumb. Brisbane is a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Radcliffe Emerson, and Heathcliff (from Wuthering Heights, of course, NOT THE STUPID CAT).
While I did identify the murderer using Ye Olde Most Unlikely Suspect rule, I had the motive as wrong as wrong can be, so the story did succeed in surprising me a few times. And while I didn't find the characters or the storyline particularly original, the book was totally entertaining nonetheless.
Super easy breezy read, absolutely a perfect, perfect summer pick -- if the sequel is checked out of the library at the moment, I will be very PUT OUT.
*I seem to really be feeling the italics today.
**Certainly familiar if you read a lot of YA. If you start watching for them***, you'll notice many, many girls who don't follow the social conventions of their time...
***Heck, you don't really even have to watch for them -- they'll clobber you over the head as you walk by the YA section if you aren't careful.