Lady Julia Grey novels, Deanna Raybourn has proved herself a master at creating evocative, atmospheric settings and her decision to set her latest Gothic novel, The Dead Travel Fast, in a mysterious and darkly exotic, feudal Transylvania castle can only be labeled as perfectly brilliant.
The death of Miss Theodora LeStrange's grandfather and guardian has left her at a impasse. Never one to desire marriage and motherhood she can either move in with her sister - and her many children - or marry a man she likes but does not love. Neither option is particularly appealing to Theodora when her rescue from domesticity arrives in the form of a letter from her school-friend Cosmina, inviting her to come to Castle Dragulescu in Transylvania prior to her upcoming marriage. Convinced this is the opportunity she has been waiting for to write her long-dreamed of novel, Theodora convinces friends and family to let her travel halfway around the world to a place steeped in tradition and superstition. Upon her arrival at Castle Dragulescu, Theodora is delighted to discover more than enough inspiration for her novel - the crumbling, yet majestic castle, the superstitious villagers, howling wind and dangerous wolves, not to mention the enigmatic Count Andrei Dragulescu himself. A figure cut for the most dashing adventures surely. But when a strange, horrifying murder strikes at the castle and rumors of supernatural involvement begin to swirl round, Theodora finds her pragmatic intellectual ideals sorely tested as the chilling and diabolical sequence of events unfold.
It is with a heavy heart to say that I truly struggled with this novel - I must have picked it up only to set it down again about twenty different times in the course of a couple of weeks; each time succumbing to the temptation of other, more shiny books. And it makes it even harder to admit when I say I have truly, truly been looking forward to reading it. That's not to say I wasn't impressed with Ms. Raybourn's latest offering - oh no, I was quite enthralled in fact. Perhaps I just wasn't in the proper frame of mind for such a dramatic and chilling Gothic novel. Over the course of Theodora's narrative I seemed to come across each and every ingredient necessary in crafting a traditional Gothic tale as if I was reading with a checklist in hand: the dark, creepy castle; the mysterious and handsome feudal lord with a libertine past and hidden depths; superstitious townsfolk; the first person, diary-style narrative; the introduction of supernatural elements all combined to create a truly haunting narrative -- just not anything particularly unique. Except for the added twist of Theodora's sleuthing - very much reminiscent of Lady Julia's adventures in that just when you think you've got it all figured out, another shocking revelation comes to light. Still, Ms. Raybourn is one of those authors who I have come to trust implicitly and although I didn't *love* The Dead Travel Fast, I very much liked it. And if I say I'm seriously anticipating the next Julia and Brisbane adventure -- Dark Road to Darjeeling -- like wow and boy howdy, would you even hold that against me?
Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
All About Romance reviews
Dear Author review
Garden in My Pocket review
S. Krishna's Books review
book source: my local library