For the next bonus book, I read Silent in the Grave by Deanna Rayburn. I liked this one a fair bit better than the last one. For one, it seemed far more realistic, and for another, it wasn’t a flat-out romance novel. This was more of a mystery, and the main character behaved like a lady of the times. (She may not have thought quite like a lady of the times, but she acted like one for the most part.) People spoke properly and politely. There seemed to be a lot of attention to detail, which I appreciated, in the things that surrounded them. The furniture, the knickknacks, the clothing, the bits and bobs that went along with their dress and tasks; it seemed to fit, and as a result none of the small setting pieces knocked me out of the narrative, as so many historical romances do.
There were a lot of complaints that the mystery wasn’t fast-paced, there wasn’t much in the way of action (I’m assuming they mean chases and duels and interrogations and twists and turns), and that the detective character of Brisbane was a knock-off Sherlock Holmes with a crystal ball. While I don’t want to invalidate these complaints, I didn’t agree with them for reasons of personal taste (so much of one’s enjoyment of a book comes down to personal taste).
Firstly, I found the mystery far more believable at a slower pace. Given what the man was supposed to figure out, he had a heck of a handicap trying to piece together events from that long ago. It’s not like he could rely on financial records or CCTV or phone tapping records. He had to find and interview people and work through what they remembered and what they had invented in the interim. This takes time (especially when you’re working with a lack of written records and a fair bit of time against you).
Secondly, the lack of action seems to be as a result of following Lady Julia, rather than the detective’s point of view. This means a lot of sitting around and waiting, as she isn’t the sort to go out and hit the streets to find her own justice…that is, she isn’t at first. She doesn’t put herself in a mess of stupid situations and get herself in lots of trouble, requiring heroic rescues every fifty pages, so to some the pacing might be abominably slow. I felt it was more realistic, and appreciated that.
Thirdly, Brisbane is a jerk and a bit of an alpha male, but in that day and age (and Romance and Historical Fiction and Urban Fantasy and and and) it is hardly anything new or unexpected. I liked the weird weakness of his headaches and his secrecy about his past, and the odd occult element that crept in but never overtook the story. We love Sherlock Holmes, arrogant jerk that he is, and I didn’t find Brisbane a poor man’s Holmes; I found him a very old man’s world-weary gumshoe from the wrong side of the tracks. However, I greatly enjoy flawed characters, so long as they are believable and relatable flaws. “My flaw is angst over my murdered family but I am otherwise perfectly beautiful and capable in every way” is BORING. “I have a lurking, semi-debilitating disease that I struggle against every day” is far more interesting. What causes it? How does he deal with it? What does it mean for his life expectancy?
Did I give away too much? I hope not. This is one I would recommend quite confidently. Don’t let the fact that it’s another Vaginal Fantasy book club pick keep you from giving it a try. At least read the digital sample, see if it’s even feasible for you to enjoy, and then decide. (Just watch out for the reviews. They can be pretty spoilery.)