The first book in Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell Mystery series was published in the autumn of 2015 and it was a captivating novel that introduced a bold, brainy and brilliantly plucky Victorian heroine. Now the second book in the series is out, delivering another delightful murder mystery packed with plenty of perilous adventures and clandestine tasks.
Whilst A Curious Beginning was all about introducing feisty and independent lepidopterist Veronica and setting up her partnership with the volatile natural historian Stoker, this second escapade sees the duo tackling another puzzling and dangerous mission. A Perilous Undertaking moves slightly further away from Veronica’s secretive royal parentage – though it’s ultimately what gets her involved in the first place – as it sees her and Stoker investigating the gruesome murder of an artist, for which a man is due to hang.
Society art patron Miles Ramsforth is facing imminent execution, accused of killing his mistress, Artemisia, who was pregnant with his baby. To the police it’s a closed case, a crime of passion most likely, and even Miles’ devoted wife believes he’s guilty. Amidst the artsy social set there are numerous suspects who had reason to murder Artemisia and frame Miles, and with the clock ticking, Veronica and Stoker embark on a race against time to solve the crime and find the real murderer.
Returning to Raybourn’s mystery series is like being reunited with old friends. It’s so much fun being back with Veronica and Stoker, whose explosive yet affectionate relationship is what makes them such a winning pair. The fact that they’re detectives of the amateur variety means they’re not afraid of sneaking around after dark and getting their hands dirty, going incognito and putting themselves in risky, and often hilarious, situations (pretending to be corpses at a morgue was one of the many highlights).
The passion that sizzled between Veronica and Stoker in the first book – something neither ever acted on – intensifies over the course of A Perilous Undertaking, as Veronica enjoys continued flirtations with the ambitious Inspector Mornaday and gains the attention of Stoker’s charming yet roguish brother, much to Stoker’s fury. Yet the will-they-won’t-they sub-plot never overtakes the central mystery, which kept me guessing and hooked right up until the end.
Raybourn is the queen of Victorian mysteries, an author who manages to write stories with historical characters and settings without ever allowing them to feel old-fashioned or stale. I could read endless tales about Veronica and Stoker evading assassination attempts and catching villains, and hopefully there will be many more to come.
A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell Mystery 2) was published in paperback by Titan Books on 10 January 2017