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A Perilous Undertaking (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery) Hardcover – January 10, 2017
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Praise for Deanna Raybourn and A Curious Beginning
“Wickedly clever and devilishly amusing...Veronica Speedwell is a joy—unflappable, unrepentant, and thoroughly delightful.”—Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series
“Veronica Speedwell is sure to join the greats of mystery fiction.”—Alan Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of the Flavia de Luce series
“The eccentricities of Victorian England receive a rousing look in the highly entertaining A Curious Beginning...Energetic storytelling.”—South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Creating strong character pairings, placing the action in unexpectedly unusual but actual historical settings, and folding it all into a clever mystery are hallmarks of this author’s magical signature style...This new series starts off with a bang.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“I love this book! Brings us the powerful Veronica Speedwell, who triumphs over adversity and danger with wit, charm, and uncanny determination. A real find.”—Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Virgin River series
About the Author
Deanna Raybourn is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling Lady Julia Grey series, which has been optioned for television, and several standalone novels. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.
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As in the first book of the series, the plot moves at a good pace. Although this is a historical mystery, the detail is kept to a minimum, which doesn't distract from the story. There are again a few twists and turns, but the clues are all there, and it is possible to deduce the murderer. For the most part, the clues are not blatant, and up to the end, it seems that Veronica and Stoker may not be completely sure. We learn just a little more about both Veronica and Stoker in this book. Those who are looking for the romance between Veronica and Stoker to develop more may be a little disappointed as this book is more about the mystery and less focused on advancing any romance or other background storyline. This book is best read after reading the first in the series.
It is interesting that on several book review websites, this book is more highly rated than the first book. I felt just the opposite - I didn't like it quite as much as the first, possibly because I was hoping that there would be more character development. I still enjoyed it quite a bit though and have already preordered the next in the series.
I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a historical mystery with a strong, independent female protagonist.
There is so much like about this book. It is set in a class society that is earlier and more rigid than that of Downton Abbey, almost a caste system like India. The behavior of individuals in each class seems realistic (to an American with no long term exposure to British society except via the BBC).
The relationship between Veronica and Stokes is fascinating: she's a feminist and he's so chivalric yet un-chauvinistic as to disable her need to be so acerbic. They work well together because of their scientific background: they approach a problem the same way. The author builds a good foundation for a relationship of mutual respect between them.
The sets and props in which the author moves her characters is intricate and details and their conversation seems (to me) to be consistent with the period (though my exposure is only through reading Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, etc.). I can only imagine the research the author did to obtain this level of realism.
While several characters were brought forward from the first novel including Sir Hugo Montgomerie and Inspector Mornaday, there are several memorable new characters that I hope we'll see in subsequent novels including Frederick Havelock, his servant/nurse Cherry, and Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk. Also, Arcadia Brown and her faithful sidekick, Garvin, make an appearance in this second novel.
There are many small details that make this novel fascinating like Patricia, the tortoise who ever raided the lettuces in the garden and who was forever getting turned over on her back. Or "...counting backwards from one hundred in Tagalog until I drifted off to sleep." Lots of little touches throughout the book.
I am troubled that I will have to wait until January 2018 to be able to read the next book in this series, though, if by waiting I am guaranteed another story like this one, I am content.
One question in closing: why did Veronica and Stoker never interview the man to be hanged, Miles Ramsforth?
I read a lot of novels set in the 19th century -- many mysteries, much steampunk, etc. There's much about it I enjoy, but it's a struggle to find heroines that aren't cookie-cutter. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the impoverished, timid, self-effacing, semi-educated virgin foundling who's nevertheless intelligent enough and passionate enough to unexpectedly win the heart of the brooding lord over the course of three volumes, interrupted along the way by lots of tears and concern about scandal and class, and "how will I ever survive now that Uncle So-and-So or Aunt Whoever has bassed away" ... it's just been done a LOT! What a delight, for a change, to find a heroine who's instead a brilliant autodidact, a capable professional with a career of her own, well-travelled and accomplished, and who possesses a lusty appreciation for the male of the species. She's cheerfully bawdy, utterly indomitable, and fiercely pragmatic. Stoker fits the bill of the brooding aristocrat with a bit more depth than most, and the rising sexual tension between him and Veronica keeps tantalizing the reader -- though their relationship progresses but slowly.
Their investigations, on the other hand, are briskly paced and the plotting is complex enough to be interesting. Secondary characters are nuanced and engaging. Worldbuilding is quick and sketchy but perfectly servicable. I'm looking forward to the next in this series!