A Perilous Undertaking

Written by Deanna Raybourn
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Thanks to the clamor of readers following her debut (A Curious Beginning), Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is back, mixing butterfly-hunting and murder. It’s 1887 London, and Miles Ramsforth, a well-known patron of the arts, is about to be hanged for the murder of his artist mistress. But a member of no less than the royal family believes him innocent, and so asks Veronica to find the truth. Enter her stalwart champion and natural historian colleague Stoker, and the game’s afoot. The team has a week before the hanging.

They accomplish their task, of course, winding through the world of both bohemian and upper-crust society on their way to unmask the murderer. They have help from quarters as various as an undertaker with a weakness for opium, a sculptor with secrets, a cheeky maid named Cherry, and Sir Hugo, head of Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police, and by turns tormentor and savior.

A fine combination of detective story and character study, A Perilous Undertaking is sure to interest mystery lovers and Anglophiles alike. Although the details are full of well-researched tidbits, some readers may find at times they get in the way of the forward momentum of the story. But clever plotting and explorations in the relationship between Veronica and her equally mysterious and passionate partner Stoker are always a source of delight.