A Grave Robbery by Deanna Raybourn


A Grave Robbery

by Deanna Raybourn

The short version of this review is, if you like this series (as I do – I like it a LOT) you’ll really enjoy this latest installment. The mystery is sharp and poignant, there are myriad historical details folded in, the relationships between the characters continue to grow and mature, and Veronica is as sarcastic as ever.

Longer (slightly) version: I was extremely happy that I received an advanced audio copy of this book, because this is a series I have savored in audio one after another. The narrator, Angele Masters, is superb, and this book is dedicated to her (which must have been fun to read).

I listened to this book in one long gulp, and was annoyed when I had to stop listening (ugh) and talk to people (UGH) about an hour before the end. It’s as immediately immersive as the other books are, and I love how familiar and new different elements of this book were.

Now, because I’ve listened to these one after the other (I joked about it in this podcast interview) my pattern-happy brain can tell you all the moments that I think of as the “Sweet Valleys.” If you’ve ever read the Sweet Valley High books, you know that every single one repeats key details about the Wakefield twins. You can probably recite them – Pacific blue eyes, yadda yadda perfect figures, sun streaked blonde hair, etc.

With Veronica’s narration, there are always some details that repeat book to book, obviously in part so new readers can find their way. But my own familiarity with them caused me to notice immediately when Veronica was about to describe her customized clothing, her living arrangements, or her preferred choice of weapons. It’s not a bad thing, but if you’re as into the series as I am, you’ll recognize these sections. They stand out from the otherwise seamless interweaving of the historical details.

I also recognized many historical references, including L’Inconnue de la Seine, the use of death masks, and the intricate funerary and mortuary practices of the time. One of the strengths of this series, I think, is the placement of very iconoclastic characters in a world rendered with highly specific historical detail. Their environment and the subtle references to actual historical events connect them to their reality and anchor them deeply within it, and in turn make the nonconforming individuals, especially Veronica, seem like probable additions to society. They don’t fit in, per se, but they absolutely do fit.

Also: I will never not snort at Veronica in the first book describing Queen Victoria and the British royal family as having “the values of middle-class Germans” who “believe in God and duty and respectability.”

My favorite parts of this book I want to discuss broadly because I don’t want to spoil anything. Much of the story, and the series as a whole, rests on the fact that so many people, especially men, think of some other people as possessions, or as objects which are easily disposable, and never as beings with their own autonomous lives. The contrast between how Stoker, Veronica, and JJ treat people, especially the victims, and how the non-recurring characters treat those same individuals is stark, and adds a lot of emotional weight to the story.

The relationship between Veronica and Stoker, and their connections with JJ and Mornaday who have a much bigger role in this book (hooray!) grow and develop in distinct but deeply enjoyable ways. JJ and Mornaday are more directly involved in this mystery from the start, and instead of basing her interactions on a foundation of mistrust, Veronica learns to share information and depend on the two of them. JJ, especially, is a terrific character and I’m happy she has more prominence while striving towrd her own ambitions.

A Grave Robbery is a fast, compelling, and extremely delightful mystery. If you, like me, think of the latest book in a long series as a visit with the characters, you’ll have a lovely time with everyone. The conversations fly like sparks, and Veronica remains wry and ruthless in her determination to seek justice for others, while making sure she’s enjoying the chase as much as possible.

– SB Sarah

Veronica and Stoker discover that not all fairy tales have happy endings, and some end in murder, in this latest historical mystery from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Lord Rosemorran has purchased a wax figure of a beautiful reclining woman and asks Stoker to incorporate a clockwork mechanism to give the Rosemorran Collection its own Sleeping Beauty in the style of Madame Tussaud’s. But when Stoker goes to cut the mannequin open to insert the mechanism, he makes a gruesome discovery: this is no wax figure. The mannequin is the beautifully preserved body of a young woman who was once very much alive. But who would do such a dreadful thing, and why?

Sleuthing out the answer to this question sets Veronica and Stoker on their wildest adventure yet. From the underground laboratories of scientists experimenting with electricity to resurrect the dead in the vein of Frankenstein to the traveling show where Stoker once toured as an attraction, the gaslit atmosphere of London in October is the perfect setting for this investigation into the unknown. Through it all, the intrepid pair is always one step behind the latest villain—a man who has killed once and will stop at nothing to recover the body of the woman he loved. Will they unmask him in time to save his next victim? Or will they become the latest figures to be immortalized in his collection of horrors?

Historical: European, Mystery/Thriller
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