A Perilous Undertaking

by Deanna Raybourn

Read this in about 5 minutes
Mysteries have always been a favorite, and somehow this genre teamed with a female protagonist seems like a hit for me. From enjoying the Tracy Crosswhite series, to adoring Ms.Marple, I sure have a thing for female detectives  and Veronica is definitely a new favorite!
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Cover

The book has a deep wine colored background with a metallic impression of a scene from the book.The cover, as per my understanding interprets a night in the grounds of a house they trespass, has the silhouette of a lady-Veronica in a gown, with a net that is often a gear of the Lepidopterists.  It is an interesting blend of ideas where a hint of what is in store is shown, and a character sketch of the Protagonist is added. The lettering is bold and the overall picture is a tad overdone to my liking. Having said that it still does justice to the story, but in my liking – it could be toned down a lot more to convey the message just the same.
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Characters

The book is the second one in the Veronica Speedwell series, and hence has her in the lead along with her natural historian colleague named Stoker. These two are commissioned by a certain Lady Sundridge, who wants them to investigate the murder of Artemisia, who was the mistress of art patron Miles Ramsforth and who is to be hanged soon as he is accused of the murder. Apart from this, there are the wife of the convict, the different members of the Bohemian art colony where Artemisia and the convict met and the members of the family where Veronica and Stoker reside at.  Stoker’s family, and the royal family themselves seem embroiled in this case. Not to forget, there are also members of the Scotland Yard that play a role in the book .

Content

Veronica is no detective, but a Lepidopterist with secrets of her own. She is invited to an elite Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment where she meets Lady Sundridge who wants her to take up the investigation of a murder. She is quite convinced that the convict in the murder - Miles Ramsforth , an art patron is not guilty. Veronica takes up the case , and she and Stoker embark on the adventure of finding the real killer of Artemisia.
Set amidst the elite and the royals, the book takes on into the complex lives of the royals, the heady world of art and the treacherous world of lust, love, success and betrayal.

Language

One of the most striking thing about the book is the language. Set in the Victorian era, but read by a modern day Author, the writing is intriguing with simple, crisp writing with witty lines  teamed with a generous sprinkling of fancy words. The combination of the two is such that it doesn't make the book an exercise to read, but makes you want to learn those new words as they are so well balanced with an easy flowing  narration.

Good Points

The narration is interesting, and the vivid description used gives the reader a clear and enticing picture of the bygone era that the book is set it. The characters are well portrayed and have interesting qualities and a certain sense of mystery that will have one wanting to read more books in the series – not just for the new adventure, but to unravel more about these lead characters. Veronica is a true heroine in the sense that she stands out in those conservative times with much pride! She wears her freedom on her sleeve, and happily embraces the tag of a hippie that she is lavished with.
It is interesting to see how two non detectives are actually the lead  of a series like this. They are curious, and very intelligent making them don the hats of  investigators with much ease. However , it is also this very feature that makes the book unique – as it stands out from the other books, most of which have a Cop or a Detective chasing the bad guys.

Bad Points

The characters are interesting in the sense that they have a certain mystery about them and as you read on, you sure are to like them, but there is a certain cliche-ness to their enigmatic personalities, which I cannot explain without giving away the plot.
The book is more than just a murder mystery, as it encapsulates the time period, and the complexities of the elite. Somewhere this possibly made it a little more predictable, as I was quite certain about who the real killer was, but I still read one partly to confirm my doubt, and partly to know how the deal was done.

Overall

I quite enjoyed the book on the whole. It is quite an engaging read with a mix of silly banter, to some serious snooping around and crime solving. With all their enigmatic and not so mysterious qualities, the characters still hit home and I would like to read more of  Veronica’s and Stoker’s adventures.

Who would I recommend this to ?

Book lovers who enjoy vividly told stories with a mix of suspense and elaborate drama, this one might interest you some!

Quotable quotes

Men, I had often observed were never happier than when they believed that they were imparting wisdom.
My choices have placed me beyond the pale of propriety. I have traveled alone. I am unmarried, I live without a chaperone, and I work for a living. These are not the actions of a lady.
We are made to be decorative and worthy of display, with occasional forays into procreation and good works, but nothing more.
The body is a willful creature of passions that must be satisfied. But the heart- the heart must only be given to one. That is the sacred bit.
and it is the over-familiarity with the gender that blinds you. You have never had cause to make a study of men because you are one, whereas I have devoted years to the subject.