Lightning Review

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn


An Unexpected Peril

by Deanna Raybourn

An Unexpected Peril was, as expected, perfect vacation reading. Veronica and Stoker are assisting with the preparations for an exhibit at the Curiosity Club commemorating a mountain climber, Alice Baker-Greene. Greene died in a climbing accident in the country of Alpenwald, and the princess of Alpenwald has arrived in England for the opening of the exhibit, which is as much about the country as it is about Greene’s climbing achievements.

Then, in short order, they discover signs of very foul play among Greene’s belongings. Veronica wants to investigate, but they’re stopped from doing so by the delegation from Alpenwald, until the princess disappears and Veronica is asked to pose as said princess for a few events, among them a peace treaty signing, which is a very big, very secret deal. As you do.

There are a number of features I love about the writing and the characterization in this series, and they are generously spread over the entirety of the novel. For example, I like learning new words, and in each book and particularly in this one, I encounter new phrases and discover new words to the point where I highlighted so many that my highlights page is a long, long scroll.

I particularly like Veronica’s dry humor, such as this moment when she’s being interrogated as to why, exactly, she’s posing as a princess in about nineteen miles of fabric and jewelry:

I regret I do not have my flask upon my person at present. This ensemble does not permit such appurtenances.

The narration from Veronica’s point of view and the at times formal and always elegant language of her perspective adds to the world building, especially because Veronica is a very astute and clever judge of character. She doesn’t easily fit into the world she inhabits, and so she identifies quickly those suspects who don’t quite fit into their own lies and are hiding something.

The tension of Veronica and Stoker’s relationship doesn’t diminish with its progress because the terms of their partnership in investigating murders and thefts are much clearer to them than the terms of their emotional involvement. They’re still ferociously attracted to each other, and each other’s best champion, but Veronica is also fully cognizant of the limitations placed on women in every sphere, and refuses any and all restrictions. Veronica is wary of formality with regards to Stoker, and as a result twists herself up in a fair amount of anxiety. The emotional stakes of their relationship continue to grow, but their friendship and intimacy have evolved and matured.

My minor problems with this particular installment were one of pacing: the beginning portion, where Veronica is trying to convince Stoker to investigate something they’re very sure was murder, became repetitive until the plot gained momentum from additional crimes and characters.

Further, at the end (no spoilers) the mystery and the complications of it were resolved very quickly. I finished the book before bed one night, and the next morning I had to re-read the last third because I couldn’t figure out how the key people knew to be in a crucial location at the right moment. Despite re-reading the ending twice, I’m still not sure how the people who needed to be in that spot knew to get there, nor how they were able to arrive so quickly. (Yes, vague, sorry).

That said, reading each new book in this series is like a visit with adventurous, clever friends who are nosy and extremely competent – my favorite kind of people to hang out with, really. The world of the story expands in this book to include other countries, but also focuses more tightly on the internal tension between Veronica and Stoker. The balance is lovely, and I’m still engaged by each new installment. I may even go back and start over with book one, just to visit with them a little more.

SB Sarah

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family—the royalty who has never claimed her.

Historical: European, Mystery/Thriller
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