From the back cover: "The honeymoon has ended but the adventure is just beginning....
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, Nicholas and Julia will not live to celebrate their first anniversary."
This 4th installment in the Lady Julia series which was released on 1 October, takes us out of England and to the exotic locale of India with the newly married Julia and Nicholas. When Portia implores them to help her former love Jane who was recently widowed and is expecting, the Brisbane's cannot refuse. As Portia explains, something is not adding up about the way Jane's husband Freddie met his end and she wants the help of her two favorite detectives. Upon arrival in India nothing appears to be amiss at first but the longer they stay at the Tea Plantation, the more likely it seems that Freddie's death was anything but normal. The Cavendish family seems normal enough with Lady Cavendish running the show and likable cousin Harry helping out. However, the cast of characters surrounding the plantation are anything but ordinary. There is the Pennyfeather family-the Reverend, his eccentric artist wife Cassandra (she wears a live snake in her hair!), son Robin, and daughter Primrose as well as the mysterious White Rajah who lives in an abandoned temple close to the Plantation. Familiar characters cousins Emma and Lucy and Julia's maid Morag resurface in this one as well. With such a varied and quirky cast of characters, Julia and Brisbane have their work cut out for them in trying to narrow down who would have wanted Freddie Cavendish out of the picture.
As in her previous novels, Raybourn excels at creating plot twists that no one would see coming. To mention a few-the White Rajah is not who he seems and his true identity is quite a surprise, a beloved character meets their end, and the murderer is the very last person you would guess would have done it. In addition to the many unexpected turns the book takes, the characters continue to change and grow. One of the things I love best about the Lady Julia series is how unconventional the two main characters are. Lady Julia is a smart independent woman who refuses to settle for the role of dutiful housewife. The enigmatic Brisbane-the sarcastic, dark, brooding half gypsy man I have come to adore-must learn to cope with being responsible for and considering the feelings of another in his life. Both are completely out of place in Victorian times but they complement each other well. In Darjeeling, it was enthralling to watch this relationship evolve and to watch Nicholas and Julia learn the importance of compromise. The decision to have the characters marry could have changed the entire dynamic of the series in a bad way. It didn't. The characters are true to themselves as always which makes it work quite well.
I really enjoyed this chapter in the Lady Julia series. The writing was smart, the mystery was top notch and I came away feeling like I knew the characters better than ever. Fans of the series will be happy to know Deanna Raybourn has just finished writing the fifth Lady Julia book so it looks as though the journey will continue in 2011. I can't wait!
This book was provided to me for review by the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this review and the opinions expressed are my honest thoughts about the book.