Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sleuthing, Victorian Style

Back to a familiar name and a familiar genre, the next book the library had ready was Deanna Raybourn's 4th Lady Julia (wait, actually it's the 5th), the 4th of which I reviewed last year on this very blog :) That review was all about the comparison between Tasha Alexander and Deanna Raybourn and the truth is, that's pretty much a lot of what I thought about while reading this one too, but I really think I should move on.  (Don't worry, I'll come back to it anon :)) But meanwhile, let me try to review this one on its own merits.

So let's start of with what we can best expect from Lady Julia #5.  Even in #s 1-3, before Nicholas and Julia tie the knot, the romance is very much not the focus of the book.  It's quite intense and quite well done, but just doesn't take up that much space.  These books are really serious mysteries, and mysteries with quite a fantasy element thrown in.  Victorian mystery... that frustrating genre, so familiar and yet so removed from the lovely Regency settings of GH and co.  It's amazing how much I love England (old-fashioned England especially of course), given that I don't know how much these books could hold my interest if they were, say, about little green men in a galaxy far far away.  I also must not hate mystery all that much - or at least this type of mystery - more highbrow than whodunit.  There is emphasis on Lady Julia and Brisbane's relationship of course, but also on various elements of Victorian London and on Lady Julia's numerous family.  The pursuit of the case is subtle enough to keep the gaslit-fog atmosphere going and also exciting enough to keep the book moving.  In general, Deanna Raybourn exercising her writing chops well.

Which brings me back to the subject of the last book's review, where I pointed out DR's far superior writing skill.  There, I was left unsure whether the rather more intense tone outweighed the better execution, but here dark side was somewhat less manifest, perhaps because it was tempered by the civility of London as opposed to the wild Indian state of Darjeeling.  So, although the spookiness factor of the book wasn't particularly low, it wasn't so intense as to be distracting.  And one other significant difference - the ending, while I found it disappointing, had none of the dramatic and sudden death I had to contend with in #4.  So what's left when all is said and done? And fairly exciting read about characters I've learned to care about whose relationship still holds some interest for me - not an unenjoyable read at all.

Verdict: 3/5

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