A Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell #5)
by Deanna Raybourn
Expected publication March 10, 2020, by Berkley
Veronica Speedwell and her partner in crime-solving have barely had a chance to rest after their last adventure when Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk sends them a frantic message demanding that they return to London as soon as possible. A potential royal scandal is brewing: Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, the Club de l’Etoile. Its proprietor, the glamorous Madame Aurore, has received an expensive– and easily traceable– gift from the Prince. Lady Wellingtonia asks Veronica and Stoker to retrieve this gift to keep word of the Prince’s visits a secret. They agree to go undercover at the high-class brothel to find the gift and take it back.
The rest of London, meanwhile, is terrified by the news of a series of brutal murders in Whitechapel– murders that have the police baffled, even with every man working overtime. Lady Wellie fears a member of the royal family may be responsible for the murders, and after a body turns up at the Club de l’Etoile, Veronica and Stoker must uncover the truth before it’s too late.
Save for a slight instance of mustachio-twirling villainry towards the end of A Murderous Relation, bestselling author Deanna Raybourn is at the top of her game with this latest installment of the Veronica Speedwell mysteries. After the discord of their previous mysterious undertaking, Veronica and Stoker have come to an understanding and want nothing more than to continue their reconciliation in peace, but of course, larger events get in the way. Though Veronica has reason to turn up her nose at the royal family and their snobbery, Lady Wellie’s fears regarding Prince Albert Victor and the scandal that could ensue persuade her to investigate the matter. This decision brings her and Stoker to a high-class sex club. It’s an eye-opening experience for both Veronica and readers who might not expect such behaviors out of the Victorians, but not everyone in the 1880s London was a prude. Veronica finds mystery after mystery within the Club de l’Etoile, and begins to question her assumptions about herself:
“It was a question that drove me to act that night with reckless bravado. I had to prove to myself that I was still the same explorer who packed her petticoats and her parasol and set off to see the world. I had to peer into the looking glass of my soul and see once more the intrepid spirit that burned within. If I lost her, who then would I be?”
It’s a question Veronica has reason to ask herself more than once during the investigation thanks to the father she’s never met, the precarious circumstances she and Stoker land in, a not-so-chance encounter at the Club de l’Etoile, and the appearance of a certain toy mouse. But while Veronica may doubt herself inwardly, it’s not a thing she ever shows to the world. She’ll hold her head high and think of a clever quip, even when a dastardly villain threatens her life. Excitement and danger are nothing new to our intrepid lepidopterist, who often flings herself into the unknown in search of a rare butterfly.
While Veronica’s courage and love of excitement might infuriate her friends from time to time, they’re the character traits that make her stories impossible to put down. They’re also Veronica’s greatest flaws, as they often prompt her to act without thinking, putting her into situations that put her and her loved ones in danger.
In another author’s hands, Veronica’s adventurous nature might grow infuriating after a while, but Raybourn balances her heroine’s impulsiveness with a sardonic wit that isn’t afraid to critique the culture she lives within. Stoker, too, is a perfect foil for Veronica’s impetuous nature. Their relationship has been at the heart of the series, and the same is true for A Murderous Relation. Raybourn shows her skill with this as well. The ‘will they or won’t they’ question has run throughout the series and could easily grow frustrating, but Raybourn knows better than to use tired tropes and a pointless lack of communication between the two to maintain the tension. Both Stoker and Veronica have seen each other in their most vulnerable states, and while they may come face to face with evil, if they face it together, they may just come out on top.
Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for providing a free egalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.