A Cursed Review?!: A Review of A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn
Once upon a midnight dreary, I sat down and read murder mysteries all March long.
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Today we continue on with Murder Mystery March, and today’s review is something a little spicy. This novel does not start out as a murder mystery, it starts as a missing persons case. As our amateur detectives delve into this disappearance, they learn of someone affiliated with the missing man who died recently from what appears to be natural causes. As they dig deeper, they discover this man was murdered!
Okay, I’m way ahead of myself. I haven’t even introduced this week’s book yet! I actually had my friends pick out this week’s review. I set a poll up on my Instagram story with four books. The options were: Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida; The Eyes of the Queen by Oliver Clements; The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lambert; and finally, A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn. Winning with 80% of the votes, please give a warm welcome to this week’s book: A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn!
Thank you to my friends who voted without knowing what my poll was for. You guys are the best.
A Treacherous Curse is the third entry in the Veronica Speedwell Mystery series, but this is the first time I’ve delved into this version of Victorian London. So let’s get onto the synopsis! As always, a spoiler alert is in order. You’ve been warned!
The year is 1888, Veronica Speedwell and Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane have just heard the news of Stoker’s former expedition partner vanishing without a trace. This man, John de Morgan, and his wife have supposedly stolen a priceless Egyptian artifact from the archeological dig they were involved with. Having fled to England, the couple stopped at a small hotel, each retiring to separate rooms for the night. In the morning Caroline, John de Morgan’s wife, cannot find her husband; or the room he stayed in for that matter.
John de Morgan’s disappearance is the latest occurrence in a string of unfortunate events surrounding the dig. Rumors of a curse began circulating the dig ever since a mummy and artifacts were discovered. Another member of the excavation passed away in the middle of the season, the ancient Egyptian god Anubis was spotted by various members of the expedition, and now he’s been spotted on the streets of London. There’s no telling what horror the mummy’s curse will bring forth next.
This is where Veronica and Stoker’s reputation of being amateur detectives comes in. Lord and Lady Tiverton, the financiers and lead archeologists of this “cursed” dig, task our main characters with finding the item John de Morgan stole, and John de Morgan himself. The mystery that follows is full of Egyptology, a lot of sexual innuendos, the will-they-won’t-they trope between Veronica and Stoker, and a cast of characters created just to advance the plot and mystery solving.
I’m gonna come right out and say it, the characters don’t make this book. The supporting suspects don’t have much depth. I guessed who the culprit was pretty quickly. Seriously, the suspects are just a step above stock characters. I mean, there’s the rebellious teenager, the conniving wife, the greedy American millionaire, the charming assistant; there are a few more characters, but I think you get it. And honestly, I don’t think Veronica and Stoker are much better. Stoker is the strong and silent type who doesn’t know how attractive he is, or at least pretends not to know. Veronica, in my opinion, is the worst character.
At this point, I think long-term readers know that I’m a feminist. I enjoy reading about strong female characters. I love characters who take no shit and put people in their place. And Veronica is like that, she’s a modern feminist. But this book is set in the Victorian era. A modern day feminist doesn’t work in this world for obvious reasons. Veronica is supposed to be a social outcast for her beliefs and lifestyle, and that she is, but it’s because she’s a 2020’s woman masquerading as a Victorian era lady not because she’s “eccentric.”
The worst part about that is Veronica is the title character. This series is called A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, yet she arguably the worst character; or at least in my opinion. If there is going to be a feminist in a historical fiction book/series, the feminist beliefs need to match the time period. Feminism in the 1880’s is vastly different from that of today. I’d rather Veronica be walking around demanding women’s voting rights than her speaking like she’s part of the sexual revolution. She just doesn’t work.
Thankfully, I found the mystery to be better. Yes, I was able to figure out who the villain was pretty early on, but I think that was an issue with the characters. Taking a step back and just looking at the mystery, it was well laid out. Each clue was well placed through the story, Veronica and Stoker had to work for the majority of them, overall, the mystery was laid out well. It did not feel like Deanna Raybourn had to include unnecessary red herrings or was forced to pad out whatever the equivalent to a runtime is in literature.
I only have one more tiny issue with A Treacherous Curse. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series. For the most part, I could follow along with the story, but there are a few instances where a character will make note of something or someone from a previous book and I had no clue who or what they’re talking about. It took me out of the book in the beginning because there was so much exposition about the previous two entries. It felt like people were talking about a party I wasn’t invited to and no one wants that.
Overall, I found this book to be decent. It is a basic, formulaic mystery. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just saying that’s what A Treacherous Curse is. I’m not mad I read the book, but I’m not enthralled by it.
And on that note, I shall bid you all adieu. I will see you all next week with the last review of Murder Mystery March. I can’t believe it’s already ending, it feels like I just started it!
Until then, stay safe, wear a mask, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.