Steampunk Journal contributor Gregory G.H. Rihn reviews the latest in an entertaining series of mystery novels of interest to Steampunk readers.
For new readers, the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries are set in the late Victorian Era, beginning in 1887. The protagonist is an independent and sexually liberated woman who has, against odds, made a living as a lepidopterist (collector and scientific specialist on butterflies and moths), and having gone around the world procuring rare specimens. Fate has made her a business partner with Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane, a ruggedly handsome adventurer and scientist in his own right.
A Dangerous Collaboration: Introduction
In A Dangerous Collaboration, Victoria returns to London after an extended trip, finding that relations with Stoker are still rocky. However, Stoker’s handsome and polished elder brother, Viscount Tiberius Templeton-Vane, invites Victoria to accompany him on a visit to an old friend of his. The visit, to a mysterious castle located on an island off the coast of Cornwall, soon becomes an investigation of a three-year old disappearance. It gradually seems grimly likely that the disappearance may have been murder, and one or more of the people now present in the castle may have been responsible–. Could it have been the melancholy lord of the manor? His brother’s widow, who claims to speak with the dead? His sister, who brews her own poisons? Or his nephew, who stands to inherit? Stoker invites himself along for the trip, thus keeping up the relationship tension between him and Victoria.
A Dangerous Collaboration: Conclusion
While these mysteries lack Steampunk gadgetry, the protagonist’s narrative style, scientific viewpoint, and iconoclastic life choices fit firmly into the Steampunk aesthetic. Veronica’s working ensemble, with trousers under skirt, capacious pockets, and built-in weaponry, would be well received at any Steampunk gathering. Steampunk readers who enjoy a decent mystery leavened with a bit of restrained (so far) romance, and a bit of ironic humor, should enjoy these books.
Score: A solid 8 of 10; enjoyable, but not earth-shaking.
Gregory G.H. Rihn has been a consumer of science fiction and fantasy for more than fifty years; active in science fiction fandom for more than forty years; a Steampunk since 2011; and has been reviewing Steampunk since 2014.