A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4)
by Deanna Raybourn
Expected Publication date March 12th, 2019 by Berkely
Even during the Victorian era, if two human beings were, in reality, in the throes of an extended ‘will they or won’t they?’ conundrum of sexual tension, one or the other of them would eventually get fed up and either fling themselves at the other or run away screaming out of sheer frustration. Or, if they were Veronica Speedwell, they would accept a friend’s offer of a six-month trip to Madeira, thereby running away from the problem without deciding anything at all.
Unfortunately for Veronica, running away from her problem- in this case, her brooding partner in crime-solving, Stoker- hasn’t solved anything. It’s just delayed the inevitable. So when, upon her return to England, Stoker’s brother Tiberius invites her to his friend Lord Malcolm Romilly’s castle on an island off the coast of Cornwall, Veronica once again jumps at the chance to avoid the question of what to do about her feelings for Stoker by masquerading as his brother’s fiancee.
But a mystery is not something Veronica can avoid as easily, for Tiberius’s motive for inviting Veronica are suspicious on their own, and a deeper mystery lies in wait, for Lord Romilly’s bride, Rosamund, vanished on their wedding day. The chances that she somehow left the island that day are vanishingly slim, and it seems as though everyone in the Romilly household had a motive for killing Rosamund.
Veronica does not embark on this investigation alone, thankfully. Stoker does not trust his brother, whose sex appeal could send a dozen ladies diving for their fans and smelling salts, and whose fits of anger would endanger them all. He turns up before Veronica becomes too enmeshed with Tiberius, but even Stoker might not be able to save her from the mysteries of the island.
Four books into a series like this, and you would think that the question of ‘will they or won’t they?’ would have been answered before it had the chance to grow stale and annoying, but Deanna Raybourn manages to keep Veronica and Stoker’s relationship fresh by not belaboring the point on every other page. Yes, they are attracted to each other, and yes they are constantly together, but they are both adults who often have mysteries to solve. This being a mystery series, there must be time given over to the crime, the suspects, the investigation, and the eventual reveal of the killer’s identity.
Raybourn accomplishes this with ease, blending sexual tension with mystery and the Islanders’ fairy stories until Veronica, Stoker, and the readers themselves aren’t sure if Rosamund’s disappearance had prosaic or mythical causes. Though the clues are there to find, I didn’t see them the first time through and fell victim to Raybourn’s misdirections. I didn’t realize who the mastermind of Rosamund’s disappearance was until Raybourn revealed it to the gathered guests, though I am sure that other, more experienced mystery readers would have figured it out before that point.
For my own part, the enjoyment I find in a mystery series doesn’t come from the revelation of the killer, but from the characters and their interactions. Veronica and Stoker might inhabit late Victorian London, but their sensibilities are particularly modern. Stoker is not under the assumption that Veronica is unable to think for herself, even if he does occasionally have to rescue her from trouble that her curiosity has gotten her into. And Veronica has long since realized that Stoker, in spite of being a man, does have a range of emotions that aren’t limited to anger and jealousy. He, too, feels happiness, humor, and grief and Veronica is willing to be there for him through all of it.
Though A Dangerous Collaboration is the fourth book in a series, anyone new to the books shouldn’t feel compelled to read the entire series just to get to the new installment. Though there are mentions of previous investigations, Raybourn is too skilled a writer to reveal the answers to those mysteries. Veronica and Stoker’s relationship has grown throughout the novels, though, so if character development is an element that you appreciate in mystery series, then do yourself a favor and read the entirety of the Veronica Speedwell novels.
Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for providing me a free ebook ARC in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.