Silent in the Sanctuary—Deanna Raybourn

He took a step closer, using his height to great advantage. The breeze had risen, whipping his greatcoat about him like great black wings, and he loomed over me like some sort of fallen angel. "Are you enjoying yourself?" he demanded. I nodded. "Oh, immensely!" (157)  
"Of course, dearest. I am entirely shattered. Now finish your whiskey." (77)

I just recently read Silent in the Grave for my Vaginal Fantasy Rewind endeavor, and loved it so much that I continued on in the series. Thus far I've read up to Dark Road to Darjeeling, which is the fourth book in the series. You can read my thoughts on Silent in the Grave here, and thoughts on books three and four will be forthcoming shortly.

As I mentioned, Silent in the Sanctuary is the second book in the Lady Julia mysteries. Following the conclusion of the investigation into her husband's death, Julia decides to leave town for a while and join two of her brothers in Italy. When their father summons them all home for Christmas, ostensibly displeased with the impromptu marriage of one of his sons, Julia is a bit disappointed to have her plans interrupted but also a bit excited to get to spend time with more of her family at Bellmont Abbey. When she arrives there—with her two brothers, a new sister-in-law, and her new Italian friend in tow—Julia encounters some unexpected guests. Then, of course, there's a murder. Isn't there always? Julia and Brisbane must work together, whilst being snowed in at Bellmont Abbey, to determine who and how and why the man was murdered.

Once again, I found some of the "reveals" expected. Obviously, the guest who was already in the room Julia wanted for her Italian friend Alessandro was going to be Brisbane. But I don't imagine that Raybourn was necessarily thinking the reader wouldn't figure that out. Same with regard to his alleged fiancee; obviously he's not going to marry her, because he's going to marry Julia.

I really enjoyed getting to meet more of Julia's family members, as well as getting more insight into the circumstances of her childhood and where she grew up. Like this description of her father: "Father regarded him with something akin to amusement. Father loves nothing better than a spirited debate, and I have often seen him adopt a contrary opinion in the company of like-minded people, simply for the sport of disputing with them." (97) Who doesn't know someone like that? Or this: "Father adored grandchildren, and the only thing that made him happier than being covered in them was escaping them and spending an afternoon locked in his study while they overran the Abbey like savages." (280) This reminded me a bit of Mr. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, a character I have always found endearing. I find Julia's father thoroughly charming, and would love to read some books of which he is the protagonist.

I adore her relationship with her sister Portia, and find it markedly similar to the rapport I have with my sister and some of my closer friends.

We also get to see a more jealous Brisbane. In Silent in the Grave, Julia was still a recent widow, so even though there was clear chemistry between them, the focus was on other things. In this book, Julia is being actively pursued by the younger Italian man Alessandro, and Brisbane is not pleased with that. But instead of acting super possessively, as men tend to in books such as this, Brisbane attempts to take the measure of the man and assess him; he doesn't tell Julia she can't be with Alessandro because she is "his." To be fair, Brisbane is publicly engaged to be married, but methinks this fact didn't change the manner in which he dealt with the situation.

The way that Julia downplays the romantic interludes between herself and Brisbane was amusing. For example, she said, "he was kissing me with thoroughness and enthusiasm. It was highly gratifying." (230) Ha! If it weren't for this dry nature of speaking that is a trait of Julia's in all areas of life, I would consider her somewhat cold. Here's another, non-romance example of that nature: "His complexion darkened further still and I began to fear he would have an apoplexy, an eventuality too gruesome to consider. To begin with, there would be no place to store another body." (272) Towards the end, Julia mentions how this investigation has made her feel useful; that, although she enjoyed gallivanting around Italy with no purpose, she much prefers feeling necessary. I appreciated that about her. Even though she comes from a well-off, well-esteemed family, the fact that she doesn't feel content just sitting idle speaks volumes to her character.

While Brisbane and the murder were expected, I never did piece together the criminal until it was directly spoonfed to me. But I loved the journey. Julia and Brisbane took one step forward and two steps back in their relationship. If only they had actually gotten together. But that's a story for another time...

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