I’ve been rummaging through my TBR lists & piles for books among the 64 in the DABWAHA tournament. At the time finalists were announced, I had read 16 books, many of which I had reviewed or commented upon, Posted about those earlier this week. I finished another book & two more reviews yesterday. Last night I started reading another from the list, which I’ve had TBR for a while, Dark Road to Darjeeling, by Deanna Raybourn. Conveniently it won its first round match-up and will be moving on in the competition. (Ms.Raybourn reached at least the round of 16 last year. She is also a RITA winner for a previous book in this series.)
DRD is the fourth book in the Lady Julia Grey series. I have not read the first three. I have had the first one for ages, thinking I’d read in order. (I only skipped ahead because of the tournament!) I seem to have entered at a good turning point, however. The two main characters, both detective types, spent the earlier books falling in love and getting married. This is their first case as husband and wife, and the dynamic of that is very interesting.
I love the setting of this book. I have a dear friend who is from Sikkim, the Himalayan country/province (its status has changed through history) where most of the book takes place. It is a gorgeous location, and Raybourn describes it well, through the eyes of a character to whom it is new. She also works the geography into the story effectively; the landscape helps to shape the action, and the background of the place and its native people are important elements so far.
Husband and wife detective teams are hardly unusual in mystery fiction. In historical settings they offer definite advantages to a writer wanting to feature a female character, providing a mechanism that allows her more social latitude than a single woman, or a woman working without her husband’s direct support, would have. Of the ones with which I’m most familiar, the couple in this book reminds me most of Amelia Peabody and her husband in Elizabeth Peters’ books. Raybourn’s writing style also bears some similarity to Peters’, particularly in the way the romance elements fit into the text.
So far I’m enjoying the book a lot. I’m glad, because I picked it to advance into the fourth round. There it would encounter the winning historical romance, a category with strong contenders.