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Monday, January 16, 2017

Victorian Sleuthing Sequel Not As Charming As Predecessor

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for A Perilous Undertaking, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, A Curious Beginning.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

After Veronica Speedwell's recent madcap adventures, she's settled into a rather routine life in London.  Along with her friend Stoker—a disgraced gentleman and naturalist—she spends her hours sorting through a friend's vast collection of artifacts, readying them for museum display.  It's not un-interesting work, but the intrepid lepidopterist is much more interested in solving mysteries.  Lucky for her, one has practically fallen into her lap.  

A mysterious woman has asked Veronica to do the impossible—stop the upcoming execution of Miles Ramsforth, a patron of the arts who's been accused of murder.  His mistress, 26-year-old Artemisia, was found in his bedchamber with her throat slit.  Despite the conclusive evidence, some insist he's innocent.  Veronica is only too delighted to look into the case.  It's just the kind of diversion for which she's been longing.  Still, the investigation has her digging in places she never could have imagined going—everywhere from an opium den to a subterranean pleasure palace.  These shadowy locales hold secrets certain members of high society would kill to keep under wraps.  Did Artemisia learn something dangerous, something that led to her murder?  Veronica intends to find out—despite myriad warnings to back off.  Can Veronica save Miles from the hangman's noose?  Or will she become the next victim of a desperate killer?

Coincidentally enough, it was a year ago today that I posted my rave review of A Curious Beginning, the first book in Deanna Raybourn's new Victorian mystery series.  The novel delighted me so much that I couldn't wait for a sequel.  I was thrilled, then, to receive an early copy of the second installment in the series, the finished version of which came out on January 10, 2017.  Is A Perilous Undertaking everything I imagined it would be?  Well, no.  I didn't find it nearly as charming as its predecessor.  It's still an enjoyable book, don't get me wrong, but its unsavory subject matter and not-all-that-likable minor characters made it less satisfying for me.  Veronica and Stoker, however, continue to shine.  With their colorful personalities, witty banter, and the sexual tension that crackles between them, they're fun to follow.  The mystery they're chasing in A Perilous Undertaking is full of twists and turns, making for a tense, exciting story.  I definitely could have done without the novel's discomfiting focus on underground Victorian sexual practices; in fact, I would have enjoyed the story a whole lot more had it stayed within the PG-13 realm.  Still, it's a clever page turner that will leave Speedwell/Stoker fans begging for more.  I'm clamoring for the next book as well; I'm just hoping it will focus more on the suspenseful than the sensual.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of  A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn and The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C Kasasian)  


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, sensuality, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of A Perilous Undertaking from the generous folks at Penguin Random House via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!


  1. Well, that's a shame that this one wasn't as good as the first. It's always disappointing when that happens. Weird subject matter. I think I'll skip it.

  2. It's too bad that this one wasn't quite as good as the first, but at least it wasn't a complete dud. And there's always #3 to look forward to. :)


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