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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Historical, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Water Lily

Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane's private enquiry business.

Among the more unlikely clients: Julia's very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved—if eccentric—family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation.

It leads to the exclusive Ghost Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances…and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall. From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust.

Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont's sake and more they'll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep….

A spunky, irrepressible heroine and a Sherlock Holmes-ian hero make this Victorian mystery delightful.

Julia Grey Brisbane wants nothing more than to be a full partner in her husband’s life and that means full partner in his private enquiry business. To achieve that goal she studies emerging technologies—like flash gun powder and photography—and takes risks that seem very foolish and unnecessary at times. Past experiences have proven that she is not invincible but have not dimmed her enthusiasm. I am uncertain if she doesn’t realize the extent of the risks she takes or if she relies too heavily on her luck, position in society, and very talented husband to get her out of the scrapes she gets into. There are moments I wanted to shake some sense into her—a sentiment shared by her husband Nicholas Brisbane. Still, she’s quite amusing at times.

Brisbane is what Sherlock Holmes might have been if he’d had a few more social skills and time for women. To quote Winston Churchill out of context, Brisband “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma...” In a word: fascinating. I’d read this story just to find out more about him. I don’t blame Julia a bit for falling in love with him or for doing everything in her power to weave herself into the fabric of his life. Even if some of the things she does make both the reader and Brisbane shake their heads.

The plot is filled with nice twists and turns, humorous and exciting in turn. Unfortunately, it lags a bit in between plot points. The story could have benefitted from condensing the time frame and eliminating downtime. Still, it was a fun read and the characters are compelling enough that if you haven’t read the previous four Julia Grey Novels you’ll want to. That said: The Dark Enquiry easily stands alone. I was five pages into it before I realized I’d read Ms. Raybourn’s first installment. Now, I’ll be getting the rest of them. Who knew reviewing books would be so expensive?

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