I have read the 98th book for the book challenge. It was Silent In The Sanctuary (A Lady Julia Grey Novel) by Deanna Raybourne.
Lady Julia Grey has been in Italy with her brothers Lysander and Plum after the demise of her town house in London. She has been resting in Tuscany and they have made friends with the young count Alessandro. Lysander has married the lovely Violante and they have a volatile marriage. Word has come from Earl March for the siblings to return home for Christmas so that he can meet Lysander’s new bride. So they ask Alessandro to come along. Alessandro presents Julia with a pet to remember Italy by–an Italian Greyhound named Florence.
Back in England, Julia and her brothers, Alessandro, and Violante arrive at Bellmont Abbey. There they find quite a house party for Christmas. Portia, their sister, is there but without her companion Jane. Aunt Dorcas is in residence, as are their cousins Emma and Lucy, with her fiancé Sir Cedric and his assistant Henry Ludlow. Lucien Snow, the village curate, is also staying there. And to Lady Julia’s chagrin, Nicholas Brisbane and his fiancée Charlotte King are also there. Julia has not heard from Brisbane since the night of the fire. She is shocked to hear that he is engaged to this simpering woman.
Lucy plans to wed Sir Cedric on Christmas Eve at Bellmont Abbey. They make a trip into the village for flowers with which to decorate the Abbey chapel. They also visit the Gypsy camp and have their fortunes told.
One night the company decides to play sardines. One goes off to hide and then the rest go off. A scream is heard. Julia and Brisbane rush to the chapel. They find Lucy with a candelstick in her hand clinging to the altar claiming sanctuary and Lucian Snow dead on the floor.
Lucy refuses to leave the chapel. Emma stays with her. It seems Lucy has killed Lucian Snow. But why? Brisbane and Julia are charged with investigating. Lucy will not talk. Snow’s body is removed to the game larder. There Brisbane discovers that Snow was actually killed by strangling. It appears to be a left-handed man. Lucy did not kill him.
While Lucy and Emma are in the chapel, someone leaves brandy for them that has been laced with laudanum. They are poisoned and nearly die. This is another mystery that must be solved.
Then Lady Julia’s famous Grey Pearls are stolen. Some of Aunt Hermia’s trinkets have also been stolen by Lucian Snow but they were not worth much. The Grey Pearls are worth a fortune. Lady Julia sees a “ghost” wandering the halls of Bellmont Abbey at night and sets out to capture the ghost.
One night Lady Julia sees the “ghost” and follows it. She confronts it and finds it is Charlotte King. She is a jewel thief and has stolen Lady Julia’s pearls. She has also stolen the Queen’s Tear of Jaipur which Brisbane is trying to retrieve, hence the sham engagement. Now Lady Julia has blown the case apart. He cannot hope to find the Tear of Jaipur and secure the Barony of Wargrave and they will also not find the Grey Pearls.
Lady Julia does her own investigation of the murder. Aunt Dorcas has disappeared, apparently gone out of the Abbey to be safe. Lady Julia realizes that Snow was killed by a right-handed man when he lay on the floor upside down. She narrows down the suspects. She suspects Sir Cedric. But when she interviews Henry Ludlow, she gets a confession that Ludlow did it with “her” help. She assumes that “her” is Lucy, whom Snow was blackmailing. But Ludlow says that he did not poison the girls. Ludlow is taken into custody.
After being snowed in, the guests begin to leave. Charlotte King leaves for Brighton. She arranges to have her Christmas pudding sent to her. Lady Julia realizes that the Tear of Jaipur must be in the pudding and rips into the pudding to find the diamond. There it is! Brisbane has earned his commission! But he still goes after Charlotte King to bring her to justice.
Aunt Dorcas returns and shed light on the situation with Emma and Lucy and who was blackmailing whom. And she explains why she feared for her life.
I love this period mystery. This is a great read with Lady Julia keeping many balls in the air as she endeavors to solve several mysteries. She never finds her pearls, but there is always another book. You never know.