In which it all starts here

So our two month long extravaganza begins today, fittingly, where it all began for me–with SILENT IN THE GRAVE. I had been writing novels for fourteen years without being published when I hit upon the idea of an aristocratic lady detective bent on solving her husband’s murder. (The notion of a particularly attractive half-Roma professional enquiry agent to lend a hand took a bit longer to come to me…)

I submitted the manuscript to my agent on March 13, 2003. It sold, after MANY rejections, in the summer of 2005 and made its debut in 2007. It was nominated for two RITAs–one of which it won, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, an Agatha, a Last Laugh, and a Dilys Winn, and was featured in the “Book-a-Day” Calendar for 2007. It is best known for its first line:

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.

To this day, that line is one of the things I am proudest of having written not just because it’s a good hook but because it sums up so succinctly who Julia Grey is as a narrator. She’s arch, she’s witty, and a Victorian woman with modern sensibilities.

Not familiar with the book? Here’s what you’ve been missing:

“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”

These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests. Prepared to accept that Edward’s death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.


Already a fan of Lady Julia? Then here are a few things you probably didn’t know:

*Portia was named Rosalind in the first draft.

*The book was intended to be set in 1816; it wasn’t until I was fifty pages into it that I changed to the late-Victorian setting of 1886 instead of the earlier Regency era.

*Nicholas Brisbane was originally conceived as a Jewish character instead of half Roma.

*In the preliminary outline, Monk was a Chinese manservant.

*Morag was named after a surly girl working in the Glasgow airport.

Want a signed copy of SILENT IN THE GRAVE? Stick around this week, and I’ll tell you how to enter!

13 thoughts on “In which it all starts here”

  1. Blake says:

    The next two months are going to be so much fun for us chickens! Reading this makes me want to stop everything, grab my copy of SILENT IN THE GRAVE, and squirrel myself away for hours with Julia and dearest Brisbane.

  2. Carrie says:

    I’m so excited you are doing this! One of my favorite things is to learn about what could have been in my favorite books. Now I want to put down what I’m currently reading, and start Lady Julia all over again.

  3. Leslie G says:

    I feel a re-reading session coming on!!!

  4. Cece says:

    I am almost finished my end-of-summer rereading of E. F. Benson’s “Lucia” novels. This blog series makes me think that a rereading of Julia would be an excellent autumn choice.

  5. Michele says:

    JUST re-read the entire series (so far? I hope!) this summer and am looking forward to these posts. I love all of the characters and especially enjoy finding out more about the various Marches. Thanks, Deanna!

  6. Patricia LaRue says:

    I think we chickens will be re-reading from book one with great
    Pleasure. Pulling my books out NOW 🙂

  7. Jessica says:

    I just read the series this past July and in one sitting. Total love! I can’t believe I waited that long to read them.

    I always like seeing how things come together because honestly, I don’t think the series would have worked well with a Regency setting. The late Victorian setting fits it. Also laughing at how Morag got her name. I lived in Glasgow for a year (I did my master’s in History at Glasgow University) and I ran into a few surly women in Glasgow.

  8. Nancy C says:

    My copy of this was the original pic in hardback. I picked it up ENTIRELY for the cover/title AND I FELL IN LOVE right there in the library that dark, drizzly evening.
    It was so good I couldn’t just read it anywhere, willy-nilly. I had to be in my comfy clothes, in the right position on the sofa with my favorite blanket, and a mix of bergamot and tangerine wafting from the pages where I had stuck a card of of the oils in. The scene had to be *right* so I could savor.
    (It didn’t just get weird, did it?)

    This is a fantastic post. Succulent, even!

  9. Kari says:

    I am torn: I want to pull out my copy and re-read, like the others here, but Anna Lee Huber’s new book comes out tomorrow, and I need to rest up tonight so I can stay up tomorrow night with that! Too many great books, too little time.

  10. Alecia says:

    Silent in the Grave remains one of my favourite books to re-read when I’m in need of a pick me up. The first line is indeed a killer and, when I bought the book, the bookseller commented that it was probably the best first line she’d read.

    That’s quite interesting that Brisbane was originally intended to be Jewish. I’m trying to wrap my head around how different the reactions to him would have been from his ducal relations and from Julia’s family. I suppose we get some taste of that through the way Mordecai is treated by Sir Edward’s doctor.

  11. Christina says:

    It is definitely time for a reread!

  12. Michelle says:

    I discovered the Lady Julia series not long after its publication and have been converting my friends into followers every chance I get. Whenever I want to convince someone to read “Silent in the Grave” all I need to do is quote those first two lines and know that I’ve just acquired another fan for Deanna and Lady Julia.

  13. Lin Paulson says:

    I had just received my first Kindle and was searching for e-books on Amazon. The Julie Grey bundle caught my eye so I downloaded a sample. Read the opening line and hit “Buy Now with 1-Click.” Three years and three readings later, all I have to do is read that opening line to slip into the special place readers long for with every book of fiction they open. Thank you Deanna.

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