One cannot help but think of Austen’s Heathcliff in Raybourn’s tale of Victorian mystery, a thwarted love affair between Lady Julia Grey and inquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. Like Heathcliff, Brisbane is untamable, inscrutable, and driven by dark demons. This is a long dance begun in the first novel, Silent in the Grave, where Lady Julia first meets the enigmatic stranger who so complicates her life.
All of Raybourn’s “Silent” books (Silent in the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary, Silent On The Moor) are driven by convoluted, well-crafted mysteries, Julia and Brisbane brought together in common cause yet always with that special tension of attraction and pride that leaves them frequently at odds. By this volume, it is impossible to deny that much of the charm is in the journey of the star-crossed would-be lovers towards one another.
Raybourn has a special talent for Victorian lore, the social repression and familial ties that bind her characters, the class-consciousness of masters and servants in 1888 England, and the long years of superstition that haunt the moors. What better place for resolution of the conflict than a mystery at Grimsgrave Manor in wild Yorkshire, where ghosts of the past still stalk the moors: “Three can keep a secret if two are dead.”
Grimsgrave Manor is also the former ancestral home of the Allenby family, descendants of kings now left penniless and homeless, dependant on Brisbane’s generosity in providing shelter for the deceased heir’s mother and two sisters. Now Brisbane has taken up residence, and Lady Julia and her sister, Portia, have come from London ostensibly to set the household to rights but actually to apply themselves to Brisbane’s latest riddle, not to mention an attack on his life.
The moors are inhabited by myth and mystery, though the last Allenby heir has left scant clues of his troubled life and relationships, the villagers distrustful of a family who ignores the poverty of those who serve them. There are gypsies, sinister events, and Brisbane’s disturbing diffidence once Julia arrives, leaning toward her at the same time that he pushes her away.
There are stories herein, all to be revealed in time, as Julia and Nicholas struggle even until the denouement in a final burst of danger. The great chase begun in the first novel is finally addressed, but it is doubtful the adventures of this pair have come to an end.