Title: A Sinister Revenge
Series: Veronica Speedwell, #8
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publication date: March 7, 2023
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Veronica must find and stop a devious killer when a group of old friends is targeted for death in this new adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.
Veronica’s natural-historian beau, Stoker, has been away in Bavaria for months and their relationship is at an impasse. But when Veronica shows up before him with his brother, Tiberius, Lord Templeton-Vane, he is lured back home by an intriguing job offer: preparing an iguanodon for a very special dinner party.
Tiberius has received a cryptic message—along with the obituaries of two recently deceased members of his old group of friends, the Seven Sinners—that he too should get his affairs in order. Realizing he is in grave danger but not knowing why, he plans a reunion party for the remaining Sinners at his family estate to lure the killer out while Veronica and Stoker investigate.
As the guests arrive and settle in, the evening’s events turn deadly. More clues come to light, leading Veronica, Stoker, and Tiberius to uncover a shared past among the Sinners that has led to the fatal present. But the truth might be far more sinister than what they were prepared for.
Hurray! A new Veronica Speedwell adventure is here, and it’s deliciously complicated and captivating.
Veronica is a dedicated lepidopterist and natural history enthusiast, with a more-or-less accidental sideline in investigating unsavory crimes such as murder, impersonation, and other deadly pursuits. In partnership with her soulmate Stoker, who is perhaps more obsessed with taxidermy than might be advisable, she pursues solutions to complex conspiracies and usually manages to bring wrong-doers to justice — even if her definition of justice doesn’t always match up exactly with the legal system’s definition.
As A Sinister Revenge opens, Veronica is dealing with the fall-out of a MAJOR complication that came to light in the previous book, An Impossible Impostor. The impact on her relationship with Stoker is severe — he’s removed himself from London to engage in fieldwork, and has quite clearly asked Veronica for space. Yes, he still loves her… but is that enough?
When Stoker’s oldest brother Tiberius requests Veronica’s help, they track down Stoker to the forests of Bavaria, where Tiberius pleads for help. He’s received death threats, and needs Veronica and Stoker to figure out who they’re from — and prevent his own and possibly other people’s demise.
The action moves to Tiberius’s country estate, to which he invites close companions from his youth, all of whom may be either potential murder victims… or the murderer. With our power duo on the case, the house party will hopefully end with the discovery of motive, means, and the guilty party, and not with dead bodies to mourn.
As always, Veronica and Stoker are incredibly fun to spend time with. Veronica, as narrator, is full of snark and sass, highly intelligent, and fully insistent on her right to be her own person, and not give in to societal expectations about a woman’s proper place. Because she and Stoker are semi-estranged for much of the book, some of their usual spicy chemistry and high-octane banter are missing, but they still manage to work together, contradict one another, and focus on the case enough to keep the entertainment value high.
The mystery itself is a good one, combining tropes such as a country-house/isolated setting, a guest list where one person is sure to be the murder, and many, many red herrings. There are plenty of clues scattered throughout, but also quite a bit of misdirection and false leads. I was kept guessing throughout the book, and found the unraveling of secrets and eventual big reveal of the whodunit very clever and very, very well done.
I always love seeing Veronica in action, and adore her independence, risk-taking, and sense of adventure. I also love her whole-hearted embrace of the importance of physical love as well as romantic love (or as she puts it: “Physical congress, I have often observed, is as revivifying to the spirt as to the body”.)
The writing in this series is utterly delightful — this book includes such terrific vocab words as “omnificent”, “rampageous”, “rumbustious” “cicerone”, “thaumatrope”, “vellicate”, and more. The dialogue is quick and witty, and the characters are all quite distinct and entertaining.
Eight volumes in, the Veronica Speedwell mysteries remain energetic, clever, and enchanting. In A Sinister Revenge, we get a captivating mystery plot as well as terrific character dynamics. Once again, I read the newest release much too quickly, and now face the long, long wait for another new book!
I’ll end with the same advice I’ve included in my reviews of every book in this series: If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, start with book #1, A Curious Beginning. There’s a very good chance you’ll want to continue!
This series has become one of my favorites. Don’t miss it.