Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Treacherous Curse

Title:  A Treacherous Curse (A Veronica Speedwell Mystery)
Author:  Deanna Raybourn
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0451476174 / 978-0451476173

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

Opening Sentence:  "'I assure you, I am perfectly capable of identifying a phallus when I see one,' Stoker informed me, clipping the words sharply."

Favorite Quote:  "Because there is no power on earth that could make me abandon our friendship. There is no deed you could confess so dark that it would make me forsake you. You said of us once that we were quicksilver and the rest of the world mud. We are alike, shaped by Nature in the same mold, and whatever that signifies, it means that to spurn each other would be to spit in the face of whatever diety has seen fit to bring us together. We are the same, and to leave you would be to leave myself."

This book continues on the series of mysteries featuring Veronica Speedwell. 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.

The setting remains the same.  London 1888 - a year following the previous book, A Perilous Undertaking. Victorian England. A time of royalty and empire. A time of rules and traditions, but also of those paving their own paths.

The main characters remain the same. Veronica Speedwell is quite a character and consistently presented through both books. She is a lepidopterist, a scientist who studies butterflies. She is engaged in a project to catalog the treasures of a certain nobleman, although her next expedition has been postponed due to the sponsor's health. She is also a detective; apparently, she did not set out to be, but she has become embroiled in mysteries she has successfully resolved. She is also connected to the royal family. This connection, not publicly acknowledged by the royal family, reveals the more unsure, vulnerable side of Veronica which rounds out her otherwise self-assured, sometimes smug, stance.

Her partner in crime (or crime fighting, I suppose) remains the Honorable Ravelstoke Templeton-Vane, aka Stoker. He is a historian and scientist. He continues to be the black sheep of his family. This book goes further into Stoker's story for the mystery involves someone from his past. While A Perilous Undertaking is very much Veronica's story; this one is much more so Stoker's.

Veronica and Stoker are colleagues and friends, but the underlying tension leading to more continues. They seem to have achieved both a professional and personal partnership. It is not an acknowledged romance, but the caring is evident and waiting to be acknowledged.

The mystery of this book is a disappearance, both of a man and an archaeological artifact. An archaeological expedition to Egypt has been beset by problems. The latest is that one member of the expedition has disappeared with a priceless artifact from the dig. He is last tracked back to England. The connection? This man is Stoker's former expedition partner and married to Stoker's ex-wife. Let's just say they did not part on the best of terms. 

In fact, because of this history, the potential exists that Stoker might be suspected of being the guilty party in these misdeeds. This makes the mystery personal for both Stoker and Veronica. Stoker must deal with his past, and Veronica must separate the fact from the fiction of this past. This also makes the mystery much more focused on the characters and the relationships than the events themselves. For this reason, I find myself actually more engaged in this book than in A Perilous Undertaking.

An easy and enjoyable read. A mystery. A budding romance. Strong, independent characters. These are the features running through both books in this series that I have read. I look forward to following them on Veronica and Stoker's next adventure, if only to see where the relationship goes.

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

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