Fans of British historical thrillers will welcome Raybourn's perfectly executed debut. In 1886, Lady Julia Grey's husband, Edward, dies suddenly of the heart disease that plagues his family, including his reclusive cousin, Simon, who resides with the couple in their large London townhouse. Just as she learns to cope with the contradictions of monied widowhood, Julia is visited by taciturn private detective Nicholas Brisbane, who reveals that Edward had hired him to find the source of some threatening letters. Analysis confirms Brisbane's suspicions of murder, leading him and Julia on a testily collaborative search for the culprit. Julia probes servants, Simon and a variety of peers, discovering disturbing truths about a husband she never truly knew and a world of deception, disease and sexual obsession she could never have imagined. Deft historical detailing, sparkling first-person narration and the fledgling love between Julia and the often surprising Brisbane balance otherwise dark themes. None of the book's components is new, but Raybourn updates and deepens them so intelligently that they feel freshly minted and free of clich?. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.