Tuesday, September 6, 2016


In Deanna Raybourn’s A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, intrepid butterfly hunter Veronica Speedwell (I’ve finally stopped smirking everytime I read her name) and her crime-solving partner, natural historian Revelstoke Templeton-Vane aka Stoker, are thrown into a mystery that completely lives up to the book’s title.
This second adventure with Veronica and Stoker doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump and if anything, it rachets up the tension and stakes for our protagonists.  We learned of Veronica’s unknown parentage in the first book and that fact is now a guarded secret in certain vaunted circles of society. Veronica, however, is unconcerned and mostly unbothered by this new information. I say mostly unbothered because Veronica is naturally a curious person. At the behest of esteemed persons who might or might not be connected to her, she agrees to look into the case of an artist who’s been murdered with the intent of clearing the artist’s married lover, wrongly accused and literally steps away from the gallows. On their way to uncovering the culprit, Veronica and Stoker encounter a truly chilling adversary who has committed a heinous murder and is intent on escaping punishment as well as seeing an innocent man hanged in his stead.
This is a masterful telling and the layers of the mystery and other interesting items are peeled back in a manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Personally, I love books that impart knowledge along with a healthy dose of entertainment and this is a feast for the senses, especially for those with an interest in art and natural history. Raybourn’s already proven her deft hand at keeping the tension of a story at a high level while also holding readers in thrall with desire for a romance with the first book in this series. Patience darlings, patience. Perhaps we’ll get that molten hot Stoker scene we’re all clamoring for if we just can hold out.
We also find out a bit more about Stoker and his status as the black sheep of his aristocratic family when yet another Templeton-Vane shows up. I like to movie cast my reading and I kept picturing Adrian Turner at his best Ross Poldark, as Stoker. I waffle between Eva Green and a dark-haired, young Helen Mirren as Veronica. And when I grow up, I want to be Lady Wellie, who’s enjoying all the privileges of riches and has lived her entire life to suit herself. All of the characters leap off the page with depth and nuance.
             This book has everything a good Gothic Victorian mystery should have—compelling characters, a gripping murder mystery and rich detail and description that drops the reader right into the period, giving the book weight and teeth. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and can’t wait for the next one.  
I received this book from Berkley through Netgalley.

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