Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father's estate crowded with family and friends— but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters.
Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father's houseguests… and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.
But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel, and a member of Lady Julia's own family confesses to the crime. Certain of her cousin's innocence, Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again. When a sudden snowstorm blankets the abbey like a shroud, it falls to Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane to answer the shriek of murder most foul.
There's nothing quite like returning to an old favourite. Particularly when that favourite is set at Christmas and involves murder and intrigue. I've talked a bit about my love for coming back to read this book around Christmas, but realised I'd never actually written a review of one of my all time favourites.
The Lady Julia books were a happy accident for me. I'd read and loved some Gail Carriger and decided to take advantage of Amazon's 'people who bought what you've bought also bought this!' feature. It recommended me this series, and I bought the first book, "Silent in the Grave", based entirely off the first sentence. I then bought the next two books (all that were out at the time) before I was barely twenty pages into the first, because I was enjoying it so much.
Whilst all of the books in the series are favourites in different ways, this one is the one I come back to at Christmas. The entire family, snow bound in their country house, with a murderer on the loose! Ghosts and ghouls! Foul play! Romance! Intrigue! I just cannot get enough of it, it is glorious.
It's sometimes hard to follow up an incredible first book, but Deanna not only has written a worthy follow up, but an absolutely brilliant continuation of the story. I loved meeting more of Julia's family. I loved the slow, simmering tension between her and Brisbane. The writing is glorious, the plotting absolute perfection, and the mystery itself truly brilliant. It's the kind of mystery that has you almost believing in ghosts - the mysterious apparitions and fear that pervade the estate at night. The character's are beautifully constructed. Everyone could be a suspect, all charming with dark hidden secrets just waiting for Julia to ferret them out with her intrepidly determined sleuthing.
In short, this book is perfection, and I love it. It's one I adore coming back to, and I always make time for a re-read at Christmas. If you're looking for an excellent historical murder mystery, the Lady Julia series is one of the very best out there.
If you're curious to find out more about Deanna's writing, you can read my Q&A with her here!