“I assure you, I am perfectly capable of identifying a phallus when I see one,” Stoke informed me, clipping the words sharply. “And that is no such thing.”
A Treacherous Curse (Veronica Speedwell #3) by Deanna Raybourn. I am going to preface my review with a a personal note. This was the first eARC I have received that caused jubilation. I requested this book from NetGalley never expecting to get it. When that accepted e-mail hit my inbox I legitimately danced for joy. I absolutely adored the first two books in this series, A Curious Beginning and A Perilous Undertaking, and to get my hands on this one early was wonderful.
London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.
But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . . (from Goodreads)
This is going to be an very unorthodox review. Why? Because I am going to babble incoherently in admiration about everything in this book. It includes Ancient Egyptian mythology and history which is one of my favorite topics. Not favorite topic in history, not favorite topic in literature, just favorite topic. Period.
So, we have a historical mystery with a strong female lead and it includes my passion for ancient history. I’m not sure this book could be any perfect for me. Okay, fangirl moment over. Maybe. We’ll play it by ear.
A Treacherous Curse, the third book in the Veronica Speedwell mysteries, once more features Speedwell herself along with her friend and partner, Stoker. Speedwell has not changed a bit and is still an intelligent, opinionated, driven, independent woman. Despite the fact that this series takes place in a time when women were still considered the lesser of the species, Speedwell absolutely shines and does not take crap from anyone. She is bold and fierce and I absolutely admire the character.
Stoker is still every bit the roguish gentleman. I always enjoy seeing how his roguish, rough personality competes with the cultured and refined gentleman he was raised as. He can be absolutely brutish at times while still being a nobleman. Of all the characters I think that he has the most depth. Stoker has killed both animal and man but he can still be hurt and brought to his knees by the emotional and mental anguish caused by his ex-wife.
As much as I love this book I will admit that it felt like it took a bit to get rolling. We quickly learn that Stoker’s ex-wife’s new husband has gone missing along with a priceless diadem from their archaeological dig in Egypt. It is assumed by the initial investigation that the man left his wife and took the diadem for money, fleeing the country. Another theory plants Stoker as an evil-doer who murders the man for taking his wife. In an effort to salvage what is left of Stoker’s reputation, he and Speedwell endeavor to find the man and the missing diadem.
Along the way, the pair encounter Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, who appears to be haunting the streets of London as well as a sinister plot rooted within the archaeological expedition itself.
While the investigation certainly got complicated by the end, none of it felt unbelievable. Anyone who enjoys mysteries has encountered one where the plot gets so convoluted that it becomes unbelievable. This one, while certainly having many twists and turns, never crosses that threshold. Every discovery and deviation has a purpose that, while not always making sense at the time, is tidily tied up in a bow without loose ends at the conclusion. That is something I love about the Speedwell mysteries, there is no stone left unturned but every stone has a purpose.
I mentioned already how much I loved this book. Deanna Raybourn has yet to write a dud, the woman is magic. This story did feel like it took a bit to get rolling but once it did I could not put it down. It absolutely grabbed me and sucked me in, I had to find out who did it and why!
The humor in this book also gets to me. If you glanced at the quote at the beginning of this post, you can see Stoker and Speedwell are bantering about a phallus. In this case they are arguing over an artifact that Veronica has unearthed from a shipping crate. In my opinion, it takes great talent and humor to make your opening scene an argument over ritualized fertility art without it becoming lewd. Instead, it is witty and gives you great insight into your characters within just a few lines. This discussion over erotic art lets you know quickly that Veronica Speedwell is not the typical lady of the Victorian period and that she has intelligent opinions and is not afraid to voice them.
I would highly recommend reading this book and the entire series, it is a historical mystery at its finest. Well written, witty dialogue, intelligent characters, depth of plot, it has everything. If you enjoy the genre and haven’t given Raybourn’s books a shot, you should!
Release date January 16th, 2018
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