Dark Road to Darjeeling without revealing a major, major detail from Silent on the Moor. So. If you haven't read this series yet (and why the heck not?!?) I am warning you now that spoilers be contained hereafter.
There, now that's done with. Let's get onto the good stuff. Yeah, that would be onto more Julia and Brisbane.
Having enjoyed a relaxing and calm honeymoon together for the last eight months, Lady Julia and Brisbane are unexpectedly brought back to the real world with the sudden arrival of Julia's sister Portia and brother Plum. Portia has arrived in a flurry, insistent that Julia and her detective husband accompany the pair to Darjeeling, India to help Portia's former partner Jane Cavendish. Ever since the death of Jane's husband, Portia has been worried about the vagueness of Jane's letters - worried for the impending birth of her first child and worried that someone might have killed Jane's husband. Naturally, Julia insists Brisbane takes the case and her help along with it but Brisbane is not about to thrust his wife into the middle of a possible murder investigation. Mad as a wet hen, Julia's continued determination to prove her usefulness to Brisbane in his work sparks a disagreement that lasts throughout much of the novel as both are too stubborn to compromise on the subject. As one hopes only to help while the other tries only to protect.
Upon their arrival in the Valley of Eden, Julia is struck by the eccentric qualities of almost all of Jane's new family and neighbors. A grieving doctor who cannot remain sober, a free-spirited American artist married to an English clergyman and even the White Rajah, a recluse who has adopted the native dress and customs. There amidst the lush and stark Indian landscape of the Cavendish's prosperous tea plantation, Julia finds herself quickly deducing a plausible motive for murder in every single person she has met. The trouble is sorting out who the killer is before he can strike again.
As the fourth installment in what has to be one of my favorite series out there (mystery or not), Dark Road to Darjeeling is a unique animal. As a Lady Julia mystery, some elements remain the same - like the previous novels, a murder is solved - although always drastically different than how you would have expected - but there is also a decided departure from some previous standards. Starting with the new cover image and title format and extending even to the landscape - no longer in traditional England but India. Both settings equally evocative while remaining worlds apart.
Once inside the story, the changes continue. As a married couple Julia and Brisbane are faced with the difficulty of striking a balance between their private and personal lives. The pair are both passionately driven individuals and it is only natural they would clash (if you don't believe me, just read their previous books - tension galore). I was so grateful that Deanna Raybourn did not sugar-coat this aspect of their marriage. Yes, they are honeymooners - utterly in love - but they are also very much strong individuals. Their disagreements have never been easily solved but that just makes for a more satisfying resolution in my opinion. Ms. Raybourn's characters have never failed to entrance me with their sharpness - I can easily imagine any of them alive and wandering around, sticking their noses in other people's business - and that remains to be true in Dark Road to Darjeeling. As always, Deanna Raybourn strikes the perfect balance between tension (oh the delicious tension!) and humor (especially where the Marches are concerned) and yet again I'm awed and more in love with Julia and Brisbane than ever. Ms. Raybourn hasn't steered them wrong yet.
series reading order:
~ Silent in the Grave
~ Silent in the Sanctuary
~ Silent on the Moor - my review
~ Dark Road to Darjeeling (October 1, 2010)
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Allure of Books review
And She Reads review
book source: review copy from the publicist