4. “The dark enquiry” by Deanna Raybourn


Publisher: MIRA, 2011
Page count: 387 pages

As the daughter of an earl and with more funds than she could ever spend in a lifetime, Julia Grey could very easily have settled into the dull but comfortable life typical of upper class women in Victorian London. However, Julia has a strong, independent streak in her and therefore insists upon joining in on her husband Brisbane’s detective business, frequently endangering herself and causing Brisbane no end of distraction and worries.

In “The dark enquiry”, the fifth novel in the series, Julia’s brother Bellmont, a high-flying and powerful Tory, hires Brisbane to discreetly retrieve some amorous letters that Bellmont sent to his mistress. The letters could not only ruin Bellmont’s own political aspirations, but could even topple the sitting government were they to fall into the wrong hands. Brisbane therefore seeks out the posh Spirit Club, where Bellmont’s mistress, madame Séraphine, works as a medium. Driven by her insatiable curiousity, Julia sneaks into the Spirit Club after Brisbane, disguised as a man, and observes a seance by the so-called medium. Brisbane then discovers Julia at the club, but has no choice but to include her in his investigation because time is running short. Just as they are about to search madame’s rooms for the letters, she returns, forcing them to hide in a cupboard where they become witness to madame Séraphine’s death by poisoning. The letters are still nowhere to be found, and with their one lead now murdered, Julia and Brisbane once again have to resolve a crime that will bring their own lives into jeopardy…

While the concept of an upper class lady detective in Victorian England is fairly ludicrous and unrealistic in itself, that doesn’t mar my delight at reading the result, which is a thoroughly enjoyable series of crime-cum-romance historical novels. This fifth installment is no exception; in particular I liked the way Deanna Raybourn added ever more layers to the relationship between Julia and Brisbane. In this book they are settling into what was supposed to be domestic bliss following their honeymoon, which could very easily have set the stage for a sugarsweet and desperately dull read (Tasha Alexander committed this very mistake in the most recent lady Emily book). Thankfully, that is not the case here, as Brisbane’s checkered past and Julia’s impetuousness keep things interesting and ensure the story moves forward. Consequently I took great pleasure in reading this book, and am eagerly awaiting the next, whenever that may be!

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