Tuesday 10 April 2018

#CBR10 Book 24: "A Treacherous Curse" by Deanna Raybourn

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Spoiler warning! This is book three in a series, and as such, this review may spoil details from the two earlier books. If you want to start at the beginning, A Curious Beginning is the first book.

Veronica Speedwell and her colleague and sometime partner in crime-solving, Stoker (Revelstoke Templeton-Vane) are alerted to the fact that Stoker may well come under public scrutiny in a criminal case. John de Morgan, Stoker's former best friend and one time expedition partner, the man who ended up marrying Stoker's ex-wife after a very public scandal, has disappeared without a trace, along with a very valuable jewelled crown from an Egyptian tomb. Having worked as photographer on Sir Leicester Tiverton's recent and very archaeological expedition, de Morgan and his wife left abruptly and are believed to have stolen the artifact, but according to the police, the morning after the de Morgan's arrival in Dover, John de Morgan was gone, the room his wife claimed he had stayed in seems never to have existed and Mrs. de Morgan (formerly Mrs. Templeton-Vane) was left in a hysterical state, refusing to speak to investigators any longer.

To clear Stoker of any suspicion in the public's eyes, Veronica and Stoker need to locate John de Morgan, which means questioning all the other members of the Tiverton expedition, as well as anyone else who may have wanted to sabotage their work somehow. It means Stoker has to face his ex-wife Caroline again, as well as his less than amicable former parents-in-law. There is rumoured to be a curse hanging over the Tiverton expedition, which both of our intrepid investigators naturally ignore - but it's difficult to explain why and how the god Anubis himself keeps appearing on the streets of London.

In the second book in this series, the readers discovered more about Stoker's background with regards to his family life and his relationship with his brothers. In this book, we finally get the truth of what happened on the ill-fated expedition to South America, which left Stoker both physically and emotionally scarred, as well as publicly disgraced and later divorced upon his return to England. Veronica is both extremely curious and yet trying to stay respectful of Stoker, believing him to still have romantic feelings towards Caroline, the woman who left him for his best friend. As always, Veronica is fiercely protective of her friend, especially when facing off against his scornful former in-laws.

While these are very enjoyable stories, I must admit the mystery aspects are not the most riveting parts of the books. In both books two and three, I have been pretty certain of the identity of the villain before the truth is revealed, but even so, it's always fun to find out the full story of the how and why, the who-dunnit is rather secondary, really. Besides, the main reason I am now eagerly devouring these books is because I am totally hooked on Veronica and Stoker and every tiny way their relationship changes a little bit more from a close and mutually supportive friendship into something more romantic. There are further developments over the course of this book, and I am absolutely along for wherever the series takes them now. With most of both Veronica and Stoker's murky pasts explored, I'd be interested to see where Ms. Raybourn takes the story going forward.

Judging a book by its cover: As I said in my review for the last book in the series, I really do like the look of these covers, but I wish there were some more distinctive details on each, connected to the mystery within the cover. As this book is all about Egyptology and a suspected curse, it would have been nice to have something hinting at that - some hieroglyphics, a sarcophagus or some depiction of jewelry. Alas, there is none.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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