Title: A Murderous Relation
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 320
Notable Notables: Victorian England setting, sex-positive protagonist
Recommended Readers: Anyone who wants to start reading mystery
Thank you, Net Galley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Once again, Deanna Raybourn returns with a Veronica Speedwell mystery that is unabashedly fun and a sheer delight to read. I flew through A Murderous Relation with a speed I regret, because I think this might be the last book? I heard a rumor that more mysteries might be in store for Veronica, but until that Goodreads page updates, I will consider this series has ended on a satisfyingly high note.
This time, Veronica and Stoker are drawn into an investigation involving her half-brother, Prince Albert Victor. He’s given a diamond to Madame Aurore, the female owner of the most exclusive club in London known for its anonymity and offerings of sexual freedom. The diamond must be reclaimed before it can be traced back to the prince and erupt scandal within the monarchy and across the country. The timing couldn’t be worse, for London is also gripped in terror over the gruesome attacks of Jack the Ripper, and Lady Wellington, a friend of Veronica and a protector of the crown, suspects that the prince might be responsible. As Veronica and Stoker investigate the brothel, secrets surrounding the royal family and Veronica’s place in it begin to present themselves—along with another dead body.
A Murderous Relation was immensely enjoyable and easy to read. Raybourn continues to introduce new characters with impressive skill, each one more vivid than the last. Aurore and Albert, especially, were immediate favorites, and seeing their interactions with veteran favorites Veronica and Stoker enriched the pages. Tiberius, Lady Wellie, Mornaday, Sir Hugo, and J. J. Butterworth also make return appearances, many of which are expounded upon character-wise, and I was just delighted because I appreciate all of them so much. (However, my appreciation for J. J.? Now through the roof! Good for her.)
As always, however, Veronica and Stoker provide the most enjoyment, both for their individual characterization and their searing, pining relationship with each other. Raybourn proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that after two characters have confessed their love to each other, they can still be interesting, they can still have sexual tension, and they can still be true to who they are and what they want. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books—romance or no—that once confessions happen, bland conversations, sex, and babies shortly follow.
Not in this house! Raybourn knows how to savor the relationship, how to nourish it, and she knows it’s a good idea to withhold sex when you’re also trying to close a case and solve a murder. Better still? Withhold sex while your sex-starved leads have to investigate a brothel full of sexual delights together. Delicious.
Okay, it’s true. I also flew through this book because I was dying to get to the first ever time Veronica and Stoker do the hippity-dippity. After four previous books of them learning to respect and trust each other and clearly wanting each other on every level—but resisting at every turn—you would be, too! This is a slow-burn at its finest, and I am so thankful to this author for milking that for all its worth, driving me insane in the process!
You can now count this as five books’ worth of waiting. The scene we all want happens, but it’s on the very last pages of the book, which pacing-wise? Brilliant. However, I was definitely disappointed at the speed it occurred and the lack of details. I really, desperately wanted details. I wanted to know how a good writer could write a sex scene for once. I knew that vague and fade-to-black-ish was how it was going to be, truly, because smutty romance book this is not, but c’mon! I’ve done my waiting! Twelve years of it! In Azkaban!
Otherwise and besides the disappoint I placed solely on myself, the plot is solid if not better than those that have come before. I took special enjoyment in Veronica having opportunities to interact with her blood family, with varying degrees of contempt and regret that it can’t become something more. Veronica is a fully-formed, complicated female character with wants and needs that sometimes conflict with each other, and I love her so much for how real she is.
I was also curious as to how Raybourn would approach Jack the Ripper. I’ve read other books (like Stalking Jack the Ripper) that I’ve been unhappy with, either due to the poor presentation of such an historic event or how underwhelmed I was with the solving of this unsolved mystery using amateur detectives. Veronica and Stoker are very much still amateur detectives, and they never pretend to be anything but. Were they going to be the ones to pull the pin on Jack the Ripper at last?
Luckily, I can report that Raybourn handles this with aplomb. Jack the Ripper remains a menace on the fringes of this plot, casting a grim shadow over everything and giving readers a glimpse of the fear and uncertainty Londoners experienced during this time. She also addresses the Ripper’s victims with respect and uses historical research to back up her views. Veronica and Stoker don’t magically solve this case, but there is a scene involving the Ripper that is so chilling, so impressionable, that I had to put the book down for a minute. It was such a subtle thing, but my heart was pounding the entire time.
If this is to be the conclusion of Veronica and Stoker’s detective romps (that we will have the privilege to see, at least), then I will leave it completely satisfied overall. Even despite the lack of graphic sex? Yes. Because these two are amazing, and it is so refreshing to see two adults be intellectual and emotional complements of each other rather than completions. Best of all? No happily-ever-after that involves pregnancy or visual on a baby. That topic hasn’t even been discussed between them. I could weep. Two adults that want to enjoy each other’s company alone for awhile! Thank you, Deanna Raybourn, I owe you my life!
If there is to be more in store for them I’ll get to read? Then, I am so ready! It’s wonderful to just have fun with a book in between all the disappointments and the high-intensity favorites, you know? Let me grab my butterfly net, and I’ll be good to go.