Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Perilous Undertaking

Title:  A Perilous Undertaking (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery)
Author:  Deanna Raybourn
Publication Information:  Berkeley. 2017. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0451476158 / 978-0451476159

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "'For the love of all that is holy, Veronica, the object is to main or kill, not tickle,' Stoker informed me, clipping the words sharply as he handed me a knife."

Favorite Quote:  "The hardest lesson I had learnt upon my travels was patience. There are times when every muscle, every nerve, screams for movement, when every instinct urges escape. But the instinct to fly is not always a sound one. There are occasions when only stillness can save you."

London. 1887. Victorian England. A time of the royals. A time of scientists and lady detectives? Perhaps not as expected, but there lies the interest in the mystery. Veronica Speedwell is quite a character. She is a lepidopterist, a scientist who studies butterflies. She is engaged in a project to catalog the treasures of a certain nobleman, while awaiting her next expedition. She is also a detective; apparently, she did not set out to be, but she has become embroiled in mysteries she has successfully resolved. Did I mention she is connected to the royal family? This connection reveals the more unsure, vulnerable side of Veronica which rounds out her otherwise self-assured, sometimes smug, stance.

To add further interest, her partner in crime (or crime fighting, I suppose) is the Honorable Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane, aka Stoker. He is a historian and scientist. He seems to be the black sheep of his family, but perhaps with reason. Glimpses of his back story are found throughout the book, but this book is clearly Veronica's story first.

Veronica and Stoker are colleagues and friends, but the underlying tension leading to more is abundantly clear. Will the relationship get there? Perhaps. Time will tell, but meanwhile, their interactions are fun to follow and their caring for each other sweetly evident. They seem to have achieved both a professional and personal partnership.

The mystery of this book is the murder of a young woman in a home that is more an artist's colony. A man is convicted and stands to be hung for the crime. He may or may not be the actual murderer. Some believe that he absolutely is not. Perhaps, they know that he is not. Hence, they involve Veronica and Stoker as detectives who may get to the heart of the matter and who may do so discretely to protect reputations. The mystery in the book leads to an exclusive club for certain **ahem** activities that society may deem inappropriate. The people involved could be irreparably damaged by any association; so, discretion is of up most importance.

The one thing I do not care for in this book is the phallic humor and the many off-color remarks. It is too much and oddly placed in a Victorian setting. Surprisingly, the references do not stem from the mystery but rather the main characters. I do not have a need to know about anyone's sexual experiences or expertise. When these conversations start to repeat, it undermines the characters and stories, which are otherwise delightful.

When I started this book, I did not realize that is the second in a series. That becomes quickly clear in this book. The story stands on its own, but previous relationships are alluded to and built upon in this book. Enough is explained for the book to stand on its own. In some cases, the lack of knowledge can become a hindrance to the enjoyment of the book. In this story, it adds to the intrigue and mystery of Veronica Speedwell herself.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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