Wednesday 24 June 2020
#CBR12 Book 28: "A Murderous Relation" by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: 4 stars
This is the fifth book in the Veronica Speedwell series. There will absolutely be spoilers for some of the previous books in the series. Skip this review if you're not up to date. It's an excellent series; if you want to start at the beginning, pick up A Curious Beginning.
Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l'Etoile, and the proprietress, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.
Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper--and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.
Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore's high-class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family--and it's up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth before it's too late for all of them.
Back in London after their near-death experience, not to mention declarations of affection for one another, Veronica and Stoker nevertheless never really seem to find the time or privacy to actually act on their out in the open emotions. You'd think snooping around a high-class brothel and trying to locate a precious gemstone, so they can soothe the worries of Lady Wellie and none other than the Princess of Wales. While they become certain rather quickly that the royal heir has nothing to do with the gruesome serial murders taking place, there is clearly someone trying to blacken the young prince's name, and as their investigation deepens, Veronica and Stoker discover that the culprits are known to them from a previous case.
It should be absolutely no surprise to anyone reading Deanna Raybourn that she writes very slow-burn romances and that readers have to be patient because her romantic pairings take a good long while to get around to anything but the occasional kiss and a whole lot of unresolved sexual tension. In A Dangerous Collaboration, Veronica finally gave up on her strange notion that she must flit about the world, free as the butterflies she likes to hunt, and admitted to herself, and Stoker, that she loves him. His feelings, and thoughts on monogamy, have been pretty obvious to readers for several books now. Being utterly fiendish, Ms. Raybourn strings the readers along for pretty much this entire book as well, before we finally get the very satisfying consummation of Veronica and Stoker's relationship.
Another important relationship that is formed in this book, is that of Veronica and Prince Albert Victor, her secret half-brother. Tasked initially by Lady Wellie to retrieve a fancy diamond that Albert Victor gifted to his mistress, matters are complicated by murder and kidnapping and a truly hare-brained plot to depose the current royal family. While they are in captivity together, some secrets are revealed to the royal heir, and rather than being upset, he seems quite happy to discover their kinship.
There's a dark minor subplot involving the Jack the Ripper murders, and without spoiling too much, over the course of their sleuthing, Veronica and Stoker come into contact with one of the women who end up being one of the murder victims. Some readers might find it a bit forced, I thought it worked very well and lent the book an extra emotional beat.
By now, I'm going to be reading these for as long as Ms. Raybourn feels like writing them. I find the continuing adventures of Veronica and Stoker (not to mention the small cameo appearances that we get from other members of his family) incredibly entertaining and am already happily anticipating the next installment.
Judging a book by its cover: I've commented before that I really like these woodcut-inspired covers, and this black, white and red one is particularly striking. It's nice that the little figure that's supposed to be Veronica has her little butterfly net, although I don't recall her doing much lepidoptery at all in this book. Also not sure what's up with the dog next to her. Even with these niggles, cool cover.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.