The summary: Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane's private enquiry business.
Among the more unlikely clients: Julia's very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved—if eccentric—family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation. It leads to the exclusive Ghost Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances…and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall.
From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust. Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont's sake — and more — they'll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep….
And here is Kim's review:
The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn is book number five in the Lady Julia Grey series. While this is a stand-alone novel, familiarity with the earlier books in the series helps the reader in understanding the family dynamics and to follow the unfolding plot developments in chronological order.
Nicholas Brisbane is a private enquiry agent (investigator) with a mysterious past. Each novel in the series reveals a different glimpse into Brisbane's origins and the secrets just keep evolving in this book. Lady Julia Grey (now Brisbane) is more of an open book. She was raised by an indulgent father in a rather progressive household and is one of ten children.
As this book opens up, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have returned from their honeymoon to set up housekeeping in London. Lord Bellmont, Julia’s eldest brother, hires Brisbane to investigate a personal matter. Bellmont is being blackmailed over an indiscretion and he needs to get back some missing letters. Both Bellmont and Brisbane try to keep the matter a secret from Julia, but she discovers the truth. Since this involves her family, Julia insists on helping with the case. The search for the missing letters leads the Brisbanes to the Spirit Club where evening séances are held for prominent gentlemen. The establishment soon becomes the backdrop for murder and possible espionage.
There is much to like about this book. Deanna Raybourn again does a masterful job of storytelling and of describing the atmosphere of Victorian London. We still get the wonderful byplay between Julia and her siblings and an extended look at Nicholas and Julia as a married couple. What brings this book down to a B rating, however, is the step backwards that Julia’s character takes. Throughout this series, Julia has wanted to be treated as a full partner to Nicholas. Julia’s insistence on being included in Brisbane’s professional life has always put stress on their relationship. By now, she should have heeded Brisbane’s warnings and not put herself in unnecessary danger. Instead, as the story unfolds, we have Julia repeatedly blowing out the windows of her home while conducting an experiment with black powder and continuing to go into dangerous situations with no back-up. Her character borders on the frivolous at times, whereas, in previous books, she had been maturing into a strong and independent woman. The growth of Julia’s character took a step back in The Dark Enquiry, but hopefully, this is a slight detour and not a recurring theme.