DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING by Deanna Raybourn
“You only saw a bit of danger and intrigue and thought you would like to have it for yourself. But you must open your eyes to the rest of it. To the tedium and the hard work and the dedication it requires. You cannot play at being a detective, Julia. To do so demeans the work of one who does it seriously.”
Review by Eleanor Bukowsky В (DEC 26, 2010)
Sometimes, marriage is the kiss of death for a series in which a man and woman quarrel incessantly but finally realize that they are essential to one another’s happiness. Fortunately, the union of Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane enhances rather than detracts from Deanna Raybourn’s Dark Road to Darjeeling. The author keeps us engrossed by removing her characters from their comfort zone and placing them in a lovely Indian tea garden amid scenic mountains and valleys; making it clear that although Julia and Brisbane remain passionately in love (as we are reminded incessantly every time they repair to their bedchamber), they still have issues about Julia’s habit of courting danger; and providing supporting roles for Julia’s sarcastic siblings, Portia and Plum, Julia’s grumpy maid, Morag, and Portia’s sweet-natured friend, Jane, who is widowed and expecting her first child.
The year is 1889, and after a nine-month honeymoon during which Julia and her husband explored “the most remote corners of the Mediterranean,” the newlyweds are ready to go home. Portia has other ideas. She drags Julia to India to visit Jane, whose husband, Freddy Cavendish, recently died in India under mysterious circumstances. Not only does Portia want to spend time with Jane, whom she adores, but she wants to determine if Freddy died from natural causes. Naturally, Julia likes nothing more than a good mystery and she wastes no time sticking her nose into the affairs of every individual in the vicinity. Julia learns that quite a few people, including Jane herself, had sound reasons to want Freddy dead. During the course of the narrative, Julia’s husband, who makes his living as a private enquiry agent, clashes with someone from his past, liaisons are formed between unlikely couples, and the March siblings all evolve emotionally in ways that they never could have foreseen.
Dark Road to Darjeeling is an uproarious, lively, perfectly paced, and thoroughly entertaining romp, filled with witty dialogue and offbeat characters. They include a perpetually inebriated physician, a female photographer named Cassandra Pennyfeather who is unabashedly avant-garde, a “White Rajah” who, on the surface, seems to be “a darling old gentleman,” Freddy’s stern and formidable spinster aunt, Camellia Cavendish, and a young boy with a zeal for scientific experimentation. There is even a man-eating (or possibly woman-eating) tiger roaming the neighborhood. The ladies are instructed to shoot themselves rather than allow the tiger to tear them limb from limb. Red herrings abound and nothing, we soon ascertain, can be taken at face value.
As if all this were not enough to keep us turning pages, Raybourn touches on a few serious themes, such as the role of women in British society; the treatment of servants and others of the “lower classes;” and the inequities in the laws of inheritance. Julia’s brother, Plum, brings up a particularly telling point when he says of himself, Julia, and Portia, “We are dilettantes, but never virtuosos. We have talent, but because of father’s money we are never forced to use that talent to drive us.” Julia comes to realize that, as a well-to-do and pampered daughter of an earl, she must find more productive ways to fill her time. Otherwise, she may wind up spending her days as little more than a decorative ornament, unhappy and unfulfilled.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 56 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Mira; Original edition (October 1, 2010)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Deena Raybourn|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:|
- Silent in the Grave (January 2007)
- Silent in the Sanctuary (January 2008)
- Silent on the Moor (March 2009)
- Dark Road to Darjeeling (October 2010)