Before delving into Dark Road to Darjeeling, I didn't have a favorite Lady Julia Grey novel. I loved each of them for their own story, and their own plots. That was until the fourth novel in the series came along. Now I have a favorite.
When we last left Brisbane and Julia, they were just beginning their new life together. In Dark Road to Darjeeling, we catch up with the Brisbane's nine months into their marriage and subsequent trip to the Mediterranean. They have traveled the world, seeing exotic places, eating exotic foods, and being newlyweds. And then Julia's siblings, Portia and Plum, join them in Cairo with a request to accompany them to India to assist Jane, Portia's former flame, as she prepares for the birth of her child. Jane's husband has died, and she is alone with his family while awaiting the birth. Portia, still in love with her dear Jane, rushes to her aid, bringing along Plum at her father's insistence. Portia harbors suspicion that everything is not as it seems with Jane in India, and asks the assistance of Julia and Brisbane. She feels Jane's husband was murdered, and intends to find out the truth before the killer turns his eyes on Jane and her baby. Never one to resist an investigation, Julia eagerly accepts, and Brisbane reluctantly agrees.
They are welcomed eagerly at the Peacocks, a tea plantation in the Himalayan mountains, by Jane, and her husband's family, Miss Cavendish, the spinster aunt, and Freddie Cavendish, cousin. Everyone is a suspect to Julia, and she begins her investigation while Brisbane remains in Calcutta on business. Being curious and forthright, Julia uses her charm and good breeding to seek the answers she needs to solve her puzzle, making friends and a few enemies unwittingly. Everyone has a motive, or so it seems to Julia. With the arrival of Brisbane, and his reluctance to allow her to assist him in finding the murderer, we see the side of their marriage that at times made me furious with the both of them, shouting "grow up" at my poor paperback book. A few conversations with a child, and one man-eating tiger later, and we have one of the most shocking conclusions I have read in quite some time. I never saw it coming, and I'm so glad!
A whirlwind of characters, old and new, and the lush descriptions of the Valley of Eden transport you to a time when the English ruled India and fabulously round characters take you on a journey through jealousy, murder, death, and finally peace. Brisbane is dark and moody with a hint of danger, and Julia is curious and prone to get herself into trouble. The plot is so full of twists that when at the end, you are not quite sure how you managed to get there, and can't quite believe the outcome. Raybourn is truly a proficient at storytelling, for my pillow was soaked with tears at the end. I sat staring at my book for a full minute, just letting the shocking facts sink in for a moment.
I always tell everyone Deanna Raybourn is an excellent teller of mysteries, but this one exceeded my expectations to the extreme. Simply breathtaking!