SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY
Raybourn takes a leisurely approach
to the meat of the complex story, meticulously detailing the many colorful characters and creepy Victorian-era setting. But once the game's afoot, the pace picks up nicely. This is an excellent way to while away a couple of cold evenings.
After several months in Italy, Lady Julia Grey is summoned to England for a large Christmas house party at the family home, Bellmont Abbey. Other celebrants include "poor relations" Lucy and Emma Phipps; Lucy's fiance, Sir Cedric Eastley; Julia's uncle Fly and his curate, Lucian Snow; and oddly, Nicholas Brisbane, the enquiry agent who investigated the death of Julia's husband several years before.
Now engaged to an attractive widow, Nicholas is cool and distant -- which suits a miffed Julia just fine! Then Lucian is murdered in the great house's chapel, and Lucy is found standing over his corpse, holding a bloody candlestick. Contacting the authorities is impossible due to inclement weather, so it falls to Nicholas and Julia to learn the truth of what's happened. (MIRA, Jan., 560 pp., $13.95)