Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dark Road to Darjeeling

The Dark Road to Darjeeling is the fourth Lady Julia Grey novel by Deanna Raybourn and the first that I've read since I started blogging. These novels follow Lady Julia from the investigation of her own first husband's death through other mysteries that bring her closer to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent engaged by her husband prior to his death. Brisbane and Lady Julia find out the truth behind her husband's death as well as discover their growing interest in each other. In this fourth adventure, Lady Julia and Brisbane have finally wed and have spent eight months traveling for their honeymoon. While in Cairo, Lady Julia's sister, Portia, and brother, Plum, catch up with them and urge them to join them on a trip to India to aid an old friend, the recently widowed Jane Cavendish. There is some question about Jane's husband's death...was it really natural causes or was he helped out of this world by hands eager to claim his tea plantation? And what will that mean for Jane's unborn child? If she carries a boy, then his life may be in danger as well because the estate is entailed and can only be inherited by males.

Set in an exotic valley in the Himalayas, there is much danger and deception hidden behind the walls of the idyllic village. The Brisbanes have their work cut out for them...with petty thievery, gambling and even drugs providing additional motives. Did Freddy Cavendish find out something that wasn't good for him or was he really murdered for the estate? Added to the mystery, Lady Julia and Nicholas are having troubles settling in to married life. Julia has expected to be taken into partnership in Brisbane's detective work, but he is determined to keep her safe at all costs. Will their differences prevent them from finding vital clues...before it's too late?

These stories by Deanna Raybourn are very interesting historical and romantic mysteries. The pairing of Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane is a good one. Two strong characters who are very in love, but who are trying to find a marriage/partnership that will work for them both. Julia doesn't want to be stuck at home in the traditional "keep his slippers warm by the fire" role and Brisbane, to his credit, admires her courage and intelligence--but also fears for her safety. As he tells her, his job is not safe...he's been shot at, poisoned, beaten and worse. Watching their relationship develop as they work towards a solution is very interesting...almost as interesting as the mysteries themselves. Ms. Raybourn weaves a fine tale and leaves me guessing till the very end while creating beautiful settings and believable supporting characters. She manages the romantic angle without letting it overshadow the mystery. Four stars out of five.

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