Message From The Author

Deanna Raybourn

Genre: Mystery, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

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Author's Message

I am so happy to welcome readers to the fourth adventure in the Lady Julia Grey series! Readers have come to know and love Lady Julia and her world-- in particular her partner in detection, the engimatic Nicholas Brisbane!-- and Dark Road to Darjeeling gave me the opportunity to combine three of my favorite things: tea, travel and mystery.

When Julia’s eccentric family appeals to the newlyweds solve a murder, they travel to the furthest reaches of the sub-continent of India, into the very foothills of the Himalayas, to a tea plantation where the atmosphere is thick with secrets. Once the independent kingdom of Sikkim, this land lies nestled between Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. Here rich soil is perfect for growing Camellia sinensis, the beautiful plant with glossy green leaves and silver-white buds which is planted in serried rows that follow the countours of the terraced land. Pickers work by hand, just as they did in Victorian times, plucking the uppermost leaves and buds for drying and processing. The air is heavy with the rich scent of the tea, and there is something otherworldly about the mist-shrouded hills. This is the real Shangri-La, and I could not imagine a more beautiful, more remote setting for a Victorian novel.

Reaching a destination so far removed from the coal fogs and gaslit streets of London was an expedition for Victorian travelers. They were prepared for every eventuality and ready to supply every missing comfort. Trunks would be packed with proper bed linen and feather beds. Lamps and traveling libraries and wicker-wrapped bottles would be ordered so that the thirsty and bored traveler would never have to do without a bit of reading or a nightcap. There were silver dinner services and silken mosquito nets, stout leather boots and hats with veils, and all of it was designed to provide the illusion that England was not so very far away. For my own characters, traveling up into the Himalayas required passage by steamship to India, followed by a train, then a horse caravan, and finally, a river crossing on a raft fashioned from the inflated hides of water buffaloes! But like any self-respecting Victorian ladies, my characters are careful to accomplish the journey in style. After all, it was the Englishwoman’s duty to bring a bit of home everywhere she went. 

This determination to recreate England extended to the homes of the tea plantations as well, whether it is a tidy doctor’s cottage or a grand house belonging to a prosperous planter. Tea was served at half-past four and gossip passed along with the sandwiches and scones. In so remote and beautiful a setting, murder is even more unexpected and somehow more shocking, as the newlyweds are quick to discover. I hope readers will brew up a cup of their favorite tea and settle in with the latest Lady Julia adventure!

- Deanna Raybourn

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