Deanna Raybourn's second Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Perilous Undertaking, is a fast-paced adventure featuring two strong-willed, capable amateur sleuths. The intricately plotted story is filled with amusing conversations, biting, irreverent remarks between Veronica and her partner in science and solving crimes, Stoker. Best of all, it's a fun story set in Victorian England.
Veronica Speedwell, a Lepidopterist, trades in butterflies and publishes papers. Stoker, or Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, is a scientist and natural historian. They're now working for Lord Rosemorran, hoping to establish a museum in the Belvedere, a building on his estate. They had planned an expedition to Fiji, but they're stuck in England due to Lord Rosemorran's accident. But, his great-aunt, the shrewd Lady Wellington Beauclerk has plans for the duo. She introduces Veronica to Lady Sundridge, a woman with her own secrets. But Veronica has reasons to say yes when Lady Sundridge asks if she and Stoker would look into a murder. In one week, Miles Ramsforth will be hanged for killing his mistress. Lady Sundridge insists he's innocent, and wants Veronica to prove it.
Veronica and Stoker end up in a world of Bohemian artists whose wealthy patron is related to Ramsforth through marriage. While their investigation is opposed by the head of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, the two still manage to find their way into a mortuary, an opium den, and a grotto dedicated to sex. Through their entire adventure, they expose a little more of their secretive pasts to each other. Both scientists are needy, but not willing to share that with anyone.
Veronica Speedwell represents the independent adventurers, the women who explored the world during the Victorian age. "My life is an unconventional one. I might look and speak like a lady, but my choices have placed me beyond the pale of propriety. I have traveled alone. I am unmarried. I love without a chaperone, and I work for a living. These are not the actions of a lady." But, these are the actions of a sexy, spirited, intelligent woman, a perfect complement to a strong-willed, brooding scientist. A Perilous Undertaking is adventure and mystery at its best.
Deanna Raybourn's website is www.deannaraybourn.com
A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn. Berkley. 2017. ISBN 9780451476159 (hardcover), 352p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.