As a book discussion group moderator, I had some trepidation about how the group would respond to this title. It is nonfiction, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, its author’s sense of humor is sarcastic and hip, the book is larded with gratuitous four-letter words, and the format is encyclopedic (i.e., it is made up of alphabetically arranged entries). My fears, though, were groundless. The members found the book clever and the author sympathetic. They readily recognized the various themes hidden within the book’s entries, and had lots to say about them. In addition, the book was stimulating enough to engender a wide-ranging discussion that touched on religion, politics, women’s rights, the quiz show scandals of the 1950s, and several other topics.
If there was anything to be critical of, it was the fact that most group members could only read the book in short bursts (though all were motivated to stick with it). Also, as noted above, the salty language was a turn-off to many readers.
Overall, the group found the book clever, entertaining, and thought-provoking.
By Norrisville Book Group Moderator
I received a reader’s advance copy of this first novel by Deanna Raybourn, slated to be published January 2007. I read it in record time, despite its being somewhat of a hefty tome for a mystery at 509 pages. I anticipate that reviewers will be making comparisons to the books of Anne Perry and Elizabeth Peters. Anne Perry because of the closely observed Victorian period domestic details and the social customs that drive the plot, Elizabeth Peters because of the wicked tongue-in-cheek wit with which those customs are commented upon. Just like the series by Anne Perry featuring Charlotte Pitt, Silent In The Grave exposes the dark consequences of the repressive culture of the upper and middle class Victorians. Just like the series by Elizabeth Peters featuring Amelia Peabody, Silent In the Grave features an engaging, intelligent, independent and unconventional heroine.
From the very first page I could not put this book down. It begins, “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” The book, which is full of similar delicious understatement, goes on the describe how Lady Julia copes with her socialite husband’s demise, supposedly from a long-standing infirmity. Julia is outraged and disbeleving when Nicholas Brisbane visits her to inform her that her husband had been receiving death threats and was probably murdered. Eventually Julia finds evidence in her husband’s papers that confirms it was murder. She determines to bring her husband’s killer to justice and enlists Brisbane’s help. Brisbane himself has many secrets and is forced to leave Julia to follow the trail of clues herself, along the way exposing many more unpleasant truths.
I thought this book was just thrilling! I loved all the period details, including the attention paid to Lady Julia’s wardrobe. I loved the eccentric characters. I loved the revelations of the dark world of vice so similar to portrayals in the stories of Sherlock Holmes. The ending very definitely makes way for a sequel, and I just can’t wait for it to come out!