Review: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series, where members of an Egyptian expedition fall victim to an ancient mummy’s curse.

Deanna Raybourn’s A Treacherous Curse is the third book in a series set in Victorian London that features the adventurous Veronica Speedwell and her compatriot Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane. The two of them are tenuously affiliated with the British aristocracy but have fallen out of favor for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their very Bohemian approach to life. And though this novel is late in the series, Raybourn expertly weaves in details from the previous books so that a newcomer doesn’t feel lost, while someone familiar with the series doesn’t feel an interruption in action.

And boy is there plenty of action. The two of them are working diligently at their museum jobs for an eccentric aristocrat when they learn about a man who had disappeared from an archaeological dig in Egypt along with a precious diadem, the most important and most valuable object found at the dig. And he happens to be Stoker’s mortal enemy. The sordid details from Stoker’s past are brought to light in a very public way as Victoria does her best to save his reputation, find the missing man and diadem, and avoid treachery in all its forms.

I love the unconventional lives these two lead, and I love the quick wit Raybourn employs as the two of them banter and argue throughout their partnership. For example, the novel opens with this delightful scene in which the two of them are arguing over whether or not a new museum donation is a phallus or not:

“I assure you, I am perfectly capable of identifying a phallus when I see one,” Stoker informed me, clipping the words sharply. “And that is no such thing.”

He pointed to the artifact I had just extracted from a packing crate. It was perhaps three feet in length, carved of some sort of exotic hardwood, and buffed to a smooth sheen. Bits of excelsior dangled from it like so much whimsical decoration. It was oddly festive.

“Of course it is,” I said. I brandished the item in question at him. “Just look at the knobby bit on the end.”

Stoker folded his arms over the breadth of his chest and looked down his nose at me.

This scene absolutely sets the tone for the whole book, instantly establishing that this is going to be a friendship to rival Holmes and Watson for sure. I think anyone who enjoys classic historical mysteries in that vein will find much to enjoy here, with the added bonus of ribald humor and a woman unapologetically at odds with her time. There’s even a sly nod to Charlotte Brontë if you’re paying attention!

And while this novel is certainly a fun read, it also gives readers a wonderfully atmospheric view of London, 1888:

It was frigid and muzzling, filthy weather, but the temperature had dropped from the previous day and the air was too cold to bear its usual stink of horse and rotting vegetables and coal smoke. It was sharp as a new blade, that air, and I drew several lungfuls of it as we moved through the gathering shadows, pacing off our steps between the glowing pools of light from the streetlamps.

Honestly, there is so much I could say about this one. From the humor to the atmosphere to the relationships and the honest portrayals of women and the different ways they deal with societal sexism and classism, somehow this novel has it all while keeping us turning the pages with a well-paced plot. If you’ve been looking for a new adventure, you’ll want to pick up this series.

See also: Review: A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

 

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Ardi Alspach was born in Florida, raised in South Carolina, and now resides in New York City with her cat and an apartment full of books. By day, she's a publicist, and by night, she's a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @ardyceelaine or check out her website at ardyceelaine.wordpress.com.

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