Silent in the Sanctuary, the second book in Deanna Raybourn's Victorian mystery series, built on the strengths of its predecessor. Raybourn created a vivid, intricate plot populated with well-rounded, believable characters. She allowed her readers to peek at the darkness festering beneath the veneer of Victorian propriety and allowed her appealing heroine, Lady Julia Grey, to develop fully as a headstrong, independent woman.
Recuperating in Italy after nearly losing her life at the end of Silent in the Grave, Julia is summoned home for Christmas along with her brothers, Plum and Lysander, and Lysander's fiery new bride, Violante. Accompanying the siblings is Alessandro, a young, dashing Italian gentleman with an obvious romantic interest in Julia.
Julia, however, still carries a torch for the handsome, enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane, the inquiry agent who helped her unmask her husband's killer. Despite the sparks that ignited between them, she has not heard from Nicholas in months. To her dismay, she finds him among her father's houseguests at the family's ancestral estate, accompanied by his new fiancee, Charlotte King.
Also among the guests are Julia's unconventional sister, Portia; their impoverished cousins, Emma and Lucy; Sir Cedric Eastley, Lucy's much older fiance; Henry Ludlow, Cedric's cousin and secretary; Lucian Snow, a lecherous village curate; and Aunt Dorcas, an opinionated, cantankerous old woman.
As a blizzard buries the estate, intrigues abound among the guests, as Lucian is found bludgeoned to death on the floor of the chapel, and Lucy claims responsibility for the murder. Lucy and Emma are poisoned, Aunt Dorcas vanishes, Julia's priceless pearls are stolen and a ghost wanders the dark hallways. Julia puts her agile mind to the task of unraveling these mysteries before the snow clears and the family is exposed to scandal.
Raybourn once again managed a complicated plot with nary a misstep, drawing me completely into the story and into the larger tale of Julia becoming her own woman, beholden to no one and demanding Brisbane treat her as an equal. I also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know better some of the members of Julia's large, unconventional family.
Silent in the Sanctuary was my third and final read for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. My grade: A.