BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Book Blurb: After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia's eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband's family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband's death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next? 

     Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.

My Thoughts: A friend reads the Lady Grey (Heh, that name always makes me think of the tea, Earl Grey :D) series and had been talking it up so when the chance to review this book came up, I jumped at it. This is book four in the series. I then contacted my friend to ask whether I should hurriedly read the first three or if she thought I could get by without reading them. The final decision? I might be less confused if I read the first three but it should be doable. She was right. I think that if I had read the others first, maybe I could have better appreciated some of the nuances and the character growth but overall, I didn't find it to be a big problem. For the most part the book stands on it's own although Ms. Raybourn does a nice job of weaving in back information with a light touch.

     Despite my anticipation, or maybe because of it, the story didn't grab me right away. It's hard to say, I think it may have been because the initial story setup was relatively slow. Once we got into the meat of the book, I was more involved.

     We meet up with Lady Grey and her groom, Brisbane, on their honeymoon, which is interrupted by the arrival of her brother Plum and sister Portia. The story hops around a  bit here, jumping locations and times, before settling in at their final destination. We do see Brisbane and Julia have a disagreement early on about whether he will travel on with Julia and her siblings or catch up and it nicely showcases their relationship.

     Actually, that brings up something that I very much liked, and appreciated on Raybourn's part: the realism of Brisbane and Julia's relationship. I suspect I would really appreciate it if I had read the first three books but even so, it's well done. They disagree, they argue, they take care of each other, and like any newly married couple, they are still learning and still negotiating how things will work. Everything is not all sweetness and light just because they are now married. They love each other, they enjoy marital relations but they still have to adjust and make accommodations. There were times that I wanted to smack each of them but that just shows you how well  Ms Raybourn wrote the characters.

     I also liked that the story was set in India as that country has always enchanted me. We get glimpses into what life was like back then, both for the Indian people and the British settlers. It was interesting to me to see the attitudes that the Brits had to the natives, especially as it felt real.

     Of course, the meat of the story is the mystery and it's a doozy. Jane, Portia's old flame, is worried that her husband Freddy didn't die of natural causes but was murdered. Julia, Brisbane, Plum and Portia all get involved, to varying degrees, in the investigation. Julia and Brisbane alternately work together and against each other as they try to sort out their roles in their marriage and in Brisbane's professional business.

     I really enjoyed this part. There were many suspects, many red herrings, and I kept changing my mind about who was the guilty party or if there even was one. I was completely surprised by the resolution of mystery around Freddy's death but when I looked back, I could see it. It made sense. I didn't like however the amazing number of coincidences in the story, particularly the people involved. I felt at times like I was reading a "Murder She Wrote" episode where JB Fletcher always had a relative in every city or country that she went to.

     The ending was a shocker, for me at least, and I cried. Well done Ms Raybourn.\

 Publisher: Mira

 Release Date: October 1st, 2010

The book was received from the author for review. The review originally appeared at Book Lovers Inc.

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