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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, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.
—The Hero Rabindranath Tagore
Somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas, 1889
"I thought there would be camels," I protested. "I thought there would be pink marble palaces and dusty deserts and strings of camels to ride. Instead there is this." I waved a hand toward the motley collection of bullocks, donkeys, and one rather bored-looking elephant that had carried us from Darjeeling town. I did not look at the river. We were meant to cross it, but one glance had decided me firmly against it.
"I told you it was the Himalayas. It is not my fault the nearest desert is almost a thousand miles away. Do not blame me for your feeble grasp of geography," my elder sister, Portia, said by way of reproof. She gave a theatrical sigh. "For heaven's sake, Julia, don't be difficult. Climb onto the floating buffalo and let's be off. We are meant to cross this river before nightfall." Portia folded her arms across her chest and stared at me repressively I stood my ground. "Portia, a floating buffalo is hardly a proper mode of transport. Now, I grant you, I did not expect Indian transportation to run to plush carriages and steam trains, but you must own this is a bit primitive by any standards," I said, pointing with the tip of my parasol to the water's edge where several rather nasty-looking rafts had been fashioned by means of lashing inflated buffalo hides to odd bits of lumber. The hides looked hideously lifelike, as if the buffalo had merely rolled onto their backs for a bit of slumber, but bloated, and as the wind changed I noticed they gave off a very distinctive and unpleasant smell.
Portia blanched a little at the odour, but stiffened her resolve. "Julia, we are Englishwomen. We are not cowed by a little authentic local flavour."
I felt my temper rising, the result of too much travel and too much time spent in proximity to my family. "I have just spent the better part of a year exploring the most remote corners of the Mediterranean during my honeymoon. It is not the 'local flavour' that concerns me. It is the possibility of death by drowning," I added, nodding toward the ominous little ripples in the grey-green surface of the broad river.
Our brother Plum, who had been watching the exchange with interest, spoke up with uncharacteristic firmness. "We are crossing the river and we shall do it now, even if I have to put the pair of you on my shoulders and walk across it." His temper had risen faster than my own, but I could not entirely blame him. He had been ordered by our father, the Earl March, to accompany his sisters to India, and the experience had proven less than pleasant thus far.
Portia's mouth curved into a smile. "Have you added walking on water to your talents, dearest?" she asked nastily. "I would have thought that beyond the scope of even your prodigious abilities."
Plum rose to the bait and they began to scrap like a pair of feral cats, much to the amusement of our porters who began to wager quietly upon the outcome.
"Enough!" I cried, stopping my ears with my hands. I had listened to their quarrels since they had run me to ground in Egypt, and I was heartily sick of them both. I summoned my courage and strode to the nearest raft, determined to set an example of English rectitude for my siblings. "Come on then," I ordered, a touch smugly. "It's the merest child's play."
I turned to look, pleased to see they had left off their silly bickering.
"Julia—" Portia began.
I held up a hand. "No more. Not another word from either of you."
"But—" Plum started.
I stared him down. "I am quite serious, Plum. You have been behaving like children, the pair of you, and I have had my fill of it. We are all of us above thirty years of age, and there is no call for us to quarrel like spoiled schoolmates. Now, let us get on with this journey like adults, shall we?"
And with that little speech, the raft sank beneath me and I slipped beneath the chilly waters of the river.
Within minutes the porters had fished me out and restored me to dry land where I was both piqued and relieved to find that my little peccadillo had caused my siblings so much mirth they were clasped in each other's arms, still wiping their eyes.
"I hope you still find it amusing when I die of some dread disease," I hissed at them, tipping the water from my hat. "Holy Mother Ganges might be a sacred river, but she is also a filthy one and I have seen enough dead bodies floating past to know it is no place for the living."
"True," Portia acknowledged, wiping at her eyes. "But this isn't the Ganges, dearest. It's the Hooghly."
Plum let out a snort. "The Hooghly is in Calcutta. This is the Rangeet," he corrected. "Apparently Julia is not the only one with a tenuous hold on geography."
Before they could fly at one another again, I gave a decided sneeze and a rather chaotic interlude followed during which the porters hastily built up a fire to ward off a chill and unpacked my trunks to provide me with dry clothing. I gave another hearty sneeze and said a fervent prayer that I had not contracted some virulent plague from my dousing in the river, whichever it might be.
But even as I feared for my health, I lamented the loss of my hat. It was a delicious confection of violet tulle spotted with silk butterflies—entirely impractical even in the early spring sunshine of the foothills of the Himalayas, but wholly beautiful. "It was a present from Brisbane," I said mournfully as I turned the sodden bits over in my hands.
"I thought we were forbidden from speaking his name," Portia said, handing me a cup of tea. The porters brewed up quantities of rank, black tea in tremendous cans every time we stopped. After three days of the stuff, I had almost grown to like it.
I took a sip, pulling a face at my sister. "Of course not. It is the merest disagreement. As soon as he joins us from Calcutta, the entire matter will be resolved," I said, with a great deal more conviction than I felt.
The truth was my honeymoon had ended rather abruptly when my brother and sister arrived upon the doorstep of Shep-heard's Hotel the first week of February. The end of the archaeological season was drawing near, and Brisbane and I had thoroughly enjoyed several dinners with the various expeditions as they passed through Cairo to and from the excavations at Luxor. Brisbane had been to Egypt before, and our most recent foray into detection had left me with a fascination for the place. It had been the last stop on our extended tour of the Mediterranean and therefore had been touched with a sort of melancholy sweetness. We would be returning to England shortly and I knew we would never again share the sort of intimacy our wedding trip had provided. Brisbane's practice as a private enquiry agent and my extensive and demanding family would see to that.
But even as we were passing those last bittersweet days in Egypt, I was aware of a new restlessness in my husband, and— if I were honest—in myself. Eight months of travel with only each other, my maid, Morag, and occasional appearances from his valet, Monk, had left us craving diversion. We were neither of us willing to speak of it, but it hovered in the air between us. I saw his hands tighten upon the newspaper throughout the autumn as the killer known as Jack the Ripper terrorised the East End, coming perilously close to my beloved Aunt Hermia's refuge for reformed prostitutes. I suspected Brisbane would have liked to have turned his hand to the case, but he never said, and I did not ask. Instead we moved on to Turkey to explore the ruins of Troy, and eventually the Whitechapel murders ceased. Brisbane seemed content to make a study of the local fauna whilst I made feeble attempts at watercolours, but more than once I found him deftly unpicking a lock with the slender rods he still carried upon his person at all times. I knew he was keeping his hand in, and I knew also from the occasional murmurs in his sleep that he was not entirely happy with married life.
I did not personally displease him, he made that perfectly apparent through regular and enthusiastic demonstrations of his affections. Rather too enthusiastic, as the proprietor of a hotel in Cyprus had commented huffily. But Brisbane was a man of action, forced to live upon his wits from a tender age, and domesticity was a difficult coat for him to wear.
Truth be told, the fit of it chafed me a bit as well. I was not the sort of wife to darn shirts or bake pies, and, indeed, he had made it quite clear that was not the sort of wife he wanted. But we had been partners in detection in three cases, and without the fillip of danger I found myself growing fretful. As delightful as it had been to have my husband to myself for the better part of a year, and as glorious as it had been to travel extensively, I longed for adventure, for challenge, for the sort of exploits we had enjoyed so thoroughly together in the past.
And just when I had made up my mind to address the issue, my sister and brother had arrived, throwing Shepheard's into upheaval and demanding we accompany them to India.
To his credit, Brisbane did not even seem surprised to see them when they appeared in the dining room and settled themselves at our table without ceremony. I sighed and turned away from the view. A full moon hung over old Cairo, silvering the minarets that pierced the skyline and casting a gentle glow over the city. It was impossibly romantic—or it had been until Portia and Plum arrived.
"I see you are working on the fish course. No chance of soup then?" Portia asked, helping herself to a bread roll.
I resisted the urge to stab her hand with my fork. I looked to Brisbane, imperturbable and impeccable in his evening clothes of starkest black, and quickly looked away. Even after almost a year of marriage, a feeling of shyness sometimes took me by surprise when I looked at him unawares—a feyness, the Scots would call it, a sense that we had both of us tempted the fates with too much happiness together.
Brisbane summoned the waiter and ordered the full set menu for Portia and for Plum, who had thrown himself into a chair and adopted a scowl. I glanced about the dining room, not at all surprised to find our party had become the subject not just of surreptitious glances but of outright curiosity. We Marches tended to have that effect when we appeared en masse. No doubt some of the guests recognised us—Marches have never been shy of publicity and our eccentricities were well catalogued by both the press and society-watchers—but I suspected the rest were merely intrigued by my siblings' sartorial elegance. Portia, a beautiful woman with excellent carriage, always dressed cap-a-pie in a single hue, and had elected to arrive wearing a striking shade of orange, while Plum, whose ensemble is never complete without some touch of purest whimsy, was sporting a waistcoat embroidered with poppies and a cap of violet velvet. My own scarlet evening gown, which had seemed so daring and elegant a moment before, now felt positively demure.
"Why are you here?" I asked the pair of them bluntly. Brisbane had settled back in his chair with the same expression of studied amusement he often wore when confronted with my family. He and Portia enjoyed an excellent relationship built upon genuine, if cautious, affection, but none of my brothers had especially warmed to my husband. Plum in particular could be quite nasty when provoked.
Portia put aside the menu she had been studying and fixed me with a serious look. "We are bound for India, and I want you to come with us, both of you," she added, hastily collecting Brisbane with her glance.
"India! What on earth—" I broke off. "It's Jane, isn't it?" Portia's former lover had abandoned her the previous spring after several years of comfortably settled domesticity. It had been a blow to Portia, not least because Jane had chosen to marry, explaining that she longed for children of her own and a more conventional life than the one they had led together in London. She had gone to India with her new husband, and we had heard nothing from her since. I had worried for Portia for months afterward. She had grown thinner, her lustrous complexion dimmed. Now she seemed almost brittle, her mannerisms darting and quick as a hummingbird's.
"It is Jane," she acknowledged. "I've had a letter. She is a widow."
I took a sip of wine, surprised to find it tasted sour upon my tongue. "Poor Jane! She must be grieved to have lost her husband so quickly after their marriage."
Portia said nothing for a moment, but bit at her lip. "She is in some sort of trouble," Brisbane said quietly.
Portia threw him a startled glance. "Not really, unless you consider impending motherhood to be trouble. She is expecting a child, and rather soon, as it happens. She has not had an easy time of it. She is lonely and she has asked me to come."
Brisbane's black eyes sharpened. "Is that all?"
The waiter interrupted, bringing soup for Portia and Plum and refilling wineglasses. We waited until he had bustled off to resume our discussion.
"There might be a bit of difficulty with his family," Portia replied, her jaw set. I knew that look well. It was the one she always wore when she tilted at windmills. Portia had a very old-fashioned and determined sense of justice. If she were a man, one would have called it chivalry.
"If the estate is entailed in the conventional manner, her expectations would upset the inheritance," Brisbane guessed. "If she produces a girl, the estate would go to her husband's nearest male relation, but if she bears a son, the child would inherit and until he is old enough to take control, Jane is queen of the castle."
"That is it precisely," Portia averred. Her face took on a mulish cast. "Bloody nonsense. A girl could manage that tea plantation as well as any boy. One only has to look at how well Julia and I have managed the estates we inherited from our husbands to see it."
Posted October 25, 2010
The fourth book in the Lady Julia Grey series did not disappoint!! Lady Julia is an intelligent and sassy heroine. I adore her and her sexy husband Brisbane. I could not predict any of the plot twists. I can't wait for book 5!!! The characters have stayed true since book 1.
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Posted October 18, 2010
When I picked up Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn, not only had I not read the previous three books in the Lady Julia Grey series but I had not read anything by Deanna Raybourn. I found this book a pleasant and engrossing read.
It did start a bit slow for me, which I accounted to acquainting myself with characters that had been delighting other readers through three earlier adventures. Once I felt settled with the characters I was quickly drawn in to the vibrant and rich tale of the Himalayas.
Ms. Raybourn creates an intriguing mix of romance, historical fiction, travel and mystery in Dark Road to Darjeeling. The characters are rich, with the lush scenery deserving of its own place in the cast. I was thoroughly enchanted with the opulent imagery that came alive on the pages. I could quite easily see The Peacocks in my mind (the tea plantation as well as the colorful birds) and smell the Darjeeling tea as well as the colorful flora mentioned throughout.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of the story was Lady Julia, a strong, obstinate and determined female, who was most certainly not a woman of her times. I loved the fact that while Julia was willful and strong natured she wasn't careless or stupid. You won't find her putting herself in a ridiculous position simply to move the plot forward. I found her a very realistic heroine, most particularly based on her relationships with her siblings (complete with some heckling) and her husband (frought with frustrations, worries and flat out annoyance at times). She loves her family but her relationships aren't perfect by any means.
The mystery was appealing, leaving me fairly well in the dark until all was revealed. All pieces of the puzzle fit together very nicely, leaving me to find the "big reveal" gratifying and very content with the resolution. At no point in the book did I feel shortchanged or confused by storyline, or did I feel the persons were acting out of character.
I would not hesitate to recomment Dark Road to Darjeeling to bibliophiles who are passionate about romance, history and foreign lands. I plan on reading Ms. Raybourn's earlier books in the series, and look forward to future efforts by her.
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Posted September 26, 2010
Source: Net Galley
One thing must be said about large families: they don't let you get bored. Lady Julia and her favorite husband, enquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane, were closing in on eight months of honeymoon when her siblings Portia and Plum cornered them in Shepheard's Hotel in old Cairo.
Portia's former lover Jane unexpectedly found herself widowed on the brink of becoming a mother. The disposition of her late husband's estate (a tea plantation outside of Darjeeling, India) depends on the gender of Jane's unborn child, and based on hints in Jane's letters, Portia suspects Jane's husband was murdered. Jane or, worse yet, her child could be next. Portia convinces Lady Julia and her somewhat reluctant husband to accompany her and Plum (Portia's chaperone-the Lady Julia Grey mysteries revel in their late 19th century setting, after all) to the estate.
The trip is arduous, complicated by family peccadilloes and newlywed strife. The marriage of two personalities as decisive as Nicholas and Lady Julia is guaranteed to be volatile, which is exactly how Ms. Raybourn's fans want it. Romantic mystery series don't survive on their sleuth's deductive prowess. They thrive on tension and conflict, ideally sizzling between the principals at all times in all places-the more exotic the better.
And what could be more exotic than the zenith of the British Raj? There is a full measure of deceit, skullduggery and death awaiting our intrepid aristocrats at the tea plantation known as The Peacocks. But that's only part of the novel's allure. Like Elizabeth Peters' classic Amelia Peabody mysteries, Ms. Rayburn's lush prose invites readers to become tourists of the mind, exploring some of the most evocative locales in history through the fictional experiences of her likeable, passionate and privileged protagonists. The fact that those experiences resonate in the reality beyond the covers of Ms. Peters' and Ms. Raybourn's books is a credit to their skill and in no way diminishes their value as entertainment and escape.
Although the fourth in the series, DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING works well as a standalone mystery. In fact, the relatively small number of family members in the cast may make it easier for new readers than earlier volumes in the Lady Julia Grey series. Ms. Raybourn's sly, sexy wit shimmers through the pages, and the story is punctuated with the historical equivalent of Easter eggs. Chances are you won't catch all of them. I know I didn't. Fortunately, they're too subtle to qualify as in-jokes, and missing them in no way detracts from the reading experience. But the pop of recognition when you catch one makes it doubly gratifying, like Ms. Raybourn's tip of the hat to one of the most famous rooms in America. I've always loved that room, and I can't think of a better setting for characters I adore.
Verdict: Two thumbs up.
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Posted April 27, 2013
Posted January 8, 2013
Posted June 26, 2012
Posted April 8, 2012
Read the first book and was enthralled, so I bought each one as soon as I finished the last. This one was interesting and tied up some loose ends, didn't really see why Jane had to die, but thats the authors peragative. Loved book #5Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2012
Posted December 14, 2011
I would probably give this 5 stars if I were just grading on the enjoyment factor, but I guess other things matter in a book, so I'm giving it 4.
I love this series and have read all five. It is really too bad that writers cannot write as fast as we readers can read!
Julia and Brisbane are married now and off to India. The usual good characters, fun interaction between the spouses and unfortunately in this book, one very sad occurance.
But all in all a great addtion to a great series.
Posted October 18, 2011
I love Lady Julia, one of my favorite characters. Of course, Colin is the ideal husband, even for today's standards! Deanna Raybourn writes very well and keeps you interested through this whole series. Love the mystery as it unveils through out the story. I wanted her to be careful because deep down, I knew what was going to happen to her! Very exciting and the end deduction was a surprise to me. I thought it was someone else the whole time!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 26, 2011
I love traveling with intelligent and pertinent Lady Julia and mysterious, sexy Nicholas Brisbane, as they slueth their way across Victorian England and the surrounding Continent. In this the fourth book of the series, we find newly married Julia and Brisbane, along with a relunctant Plum, unwillingly involved in mystery and murder in India, at the 'gentle' persuasion of Julia's unconventional sister Portia. Once again, we meet many colorful and intriging people, as well as some old friends, that take us deep into the rural mountains of India and bring us to an unexpected ending, and once again, when the book is finished, you will still want more. If this is the first book of Deanna Raybourn's you've considered, don't hesitate, but also buy the first three books of the series because you will want to read them all and get to know the story of inquisitive Lady Julia and the brilliant Brisbane from the beginning, with Silent in the Grave. A great series that always leaves you wanting more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 12, 2010
Posted October 5, 2010
it was a fascinating book to read, and will be time and time again. i recommend this book if you enjoy romance mixed with some mystery. definitely a page turner that will keep you at night trying to figure out the plot until the very end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 1, 2010
This romantic tale should not be missed! Lady Julia is a stunning character who doesn't disappoint. The story line is entertaining from beginning to end. Five stars!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2010
DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING by Deanna Raybourn is a historical mystery set in 1889 Himalayas and India. It is well written with depth and details. It is the fifth in The Lady Julia Grey Mystery series but can be read as a stand alone. It has suspense, mystery, intrigue, fast paced, twists,turns, family, secrets, betrayal, wit, humor and family secrets will come to light. While on their honeymoon in the Himalayas, Julia and her new husband, detective Brisbane, of eight months are suprised by two of Julia's siblings, Portia and Plum.Portia believes her former lover/best friend, Jane, is in trouble. Jane married a man named Freddie, who has been killed. Jane is also prengant by this man,lives with his family in the mountains of India where there is a question to who will be the heir.If a son is born, him or if a girl, Freddie's nephrew. The three siblings head to India to investigate Jane's husband's death and possible murder. What they encounter is mistrust, secrets, mayham, betrayal and finally the truth of more than one secrets, including Jane's husband, Brisbain's father. This is a great whounit that will keep you on the edge of your seat and entertained from beginning to end.This book was received from Net Galley and details can be found at Mira and My Book Addiction and More.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2010
In 1889, Lady Julia Grey and her second husband detective Nicholas Brisbane enjoy a honeymoon in the Himalayas; not a surprising locale for this pair who met when her first spouse was twitching in his final death dance a few years ago (see Silent in the Grave). While high in the mountains, the happy couple is stunned by family visitors; Julia's brother Plum and her sister Portia arrive with shocking news.
Portia's former lover Jane Cavendish insists her husband Freddie was murdered in India. Brisbane couldn't care less that Freddie's dead as he wants time alone with his wife. However, the three siblings agree to investigate the homicide to the sleuth's disappointment. However, he hesitantly agrees to assist his wife and in-laws, but insists they owe him big time. As the inquiry continues into boiling colonial India, they find a horde of potential killers with strong motives, but not one iota of evidence pointing specifically at any of them.
The fourth Lady Julia Grey historical mystery (see Silent in the Sanctuary and Silent on the Moor) is a superb entry in what is a strong series. Shifting continents, but still influenced by the Victorian presence in Asia, as "the sun never sets on the English Empire", Dark Road to Darjeeling is a great whodunit it that showcases the talent of Deanna Raybourn to mix humor with tension in a descriptive late nineteenth century exotic locale. Fans will want to read this terrific whodunit as the Lady Julia Grey saga continues its super storytelling.
Posted September 22, 2011
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Posted May 9, 2012
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Posted June 24, 2011
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