Berkley Presents: A Sinister Revenge

Title:  A Sinister Revenge 
Series:  Veronica Speedwell #8
Author:  Deanna Raybourn
Length:  336 pages
Date Of Publication:  March 7th, 2023
Publisher:  Berkley 
Rating:  4 Stars

Veronica must find and stop a devious killer when a group of old friends is targeted for death in this new adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

Veronica’s natural-historian beau, Stoker, has been away in Bavaria for months and their relationship is at an impasse. But when Veronica shows up before him with his brother, Tiberius, Lord Templeton-Vane, he is lured back home by an intriguing job offer: preparing an iguanodon for a very special dinner party.

Tiberius has received a cryptic message—along with the obituaries of two recently deceased members of his old group of friends, the Seven Sinners—that he too should get his affairs in order. Realizing he is in grave danger but not knowing why, he plans a reunion party for the remaining Sinners at his family estate to lure the killer out while Veronica and Stoker investigate.

As the guests arrive and settle in, the evening’s events turn deadly. More clues come to light, leading Veronica, Stoker, and Tiberius to uncover a shared past among the Sinners that has led to the fatal present. But the truth might be far more sinister than what they were prepared for.

Please enjoy this excerpt from 
A Sinister Revenge 
Bavaria, September 1889 You must not go into the forest at night,”the innkeeper warned, his voice trembling with fear. “Something dangerous walks there in the darkness.”He carried on in this vein for some time as I applied myself to a stein of Weissbier and a plate of crisp, excellent sausages. My friend and traveling companion, the Viscount Templeton-Vane, listened politely as the fellow grew more vehement. “The creature that walks by night, it is part wolf, part man. It has but one eye, the other a gaping hole of deepest black. It keeps to the shadows, and if you dare to come near, it snarls like a bear,”he went on, his eyes round in his chubby, shiny face. He was a character straight from a storybook, plump and bearded, an imp of a fellow, with lines of good humour etched upon his face. But there was no mirth to be found upon his visage as he told his tale, only fear, brightening his eyes and causing his mouth to tremble ever so slightly. Behind him, a lurking barmaid whose ample charms were scarcely contained by the lacing of her dirndl, threw her apron over her head and fled through the door to the kitchens. The viscount—Tiberius to his friends—quirked up one expressive brow. “My good man, calm yourself. Surely this is some piece of local lore meant to frighten the feeble. We English are made of sterner stuff.”“But it is true,”the fellow insisted, colour pinkening the cheeks above the white fringe of his beard. He glanced around and lowered his voice. “I have seen it, a hulking shadow, moving in the silence of the firs. And when I stepped in its direction, it reared back and it growled with the fiendish fury of a hound of Hell.”Tiberius, usually a man of cool logic, looked startled. “Growled, you say?”“Like a wolf,”the man confirmed. I sighed. It was time to put an end to this. “My good man,”I said politely to the innkeeper, “whilst I must concede that your use of alliteration is impressive, I think we can dismiss the notion of a hybrid monster roaming these mountains.”He gave me a look of profound injury and slunk away, muttering. Tiberius met my gaze. “Can we? I realise the local folk are a superstitious lot, but how exactly would you explain the existence of such a creature?”I ticked off the qualities as I said them. “A tall, unsociable creature that keeps to the shadows, shuns the society of respectable people, and growls its displeasure? Tell me, who does that seem to describe?”Tiberius’mouth went slack, then curved into a smile. “You mean—”“Yes, Tiberius. I think we have, at long last, found your brother.”•••The Honourable Revelstoke Templeton-Vane—Stoker, familiarly—had not been lost so much as slightly misplaced. For some months Stoker and I had enjoyed an intimate relationship that had proven thoroughly fulfilling, indeed enrapturing, in all the particulars. We were work colleagues, engaged in the endlessly fascinating work of preparing museum exhibits for our employer, Lord Rosemorran. We were also neighbours, each of us inhabiting a small folly on his lordship’s Marylebone estate. And we were occasional partners in detection, as falling over corpses had become something of a habit. In short, our lives were so fully entwined it was difficult to say where one left off and the other began. We enjoyed it all—from the scientific work to the investigation of crime, to the exuberant physicality of our more private endeavours. (Stoker is singularly suited to the amatory arts through a combination of bodily charms, robust stamina, and an enchanting thoroughness that might have startled a less experienced or enthusiastic partner than I.) But following a painful interlude, Stoker had taken himself off to nurse his wounded feelings. When last he and I had been together, there had been a complication regarding my marital status. Not a complication so much as a husband—one I had believed dead and whose resurrection was most unwelcome. The fact that we had nearly died as a result of Harry’s dramatic appearance into our lives had not endeared him to Stoker, and he had taken his leave of England whilst still believing me bound forever to a man with criminous tendencies.* As his parting words had been a directive to grant him time and privacy to smooth his ruffled feathers, I had naturally concurred. By the next morning he was gone, leaving only a hastily scribbled line to explain he was off to Germany in pursuit of a trophy—as a natural historian, his employment entailed procuring and improving a vast array of specimens—but no invitation to join him ensued. At almost precisely the same moment, a letter had arrived from Tiberius urging me to come to Italy, where he had persuaded his hostess, an aging papal marquise, to part with a prized collection of rare birdwing butterflies. I am, first and foremost, a lepidopterist. I did not hesitate to pack my carpetbag and board the first train out of London. Through the end of the spring and the whole of that summer I accompanied Tiberius as he made his way through Italy, sending boxes of butterflies back to Lord Rosemorran’s burgeoning museum. From Stoker, I had not a single line, although Lord Rosemorran frequently alluded to Stoker’s peregrinations through the Black Forest in his own letters. I thus had a vague idea of where Stoker was, and I was not at all distressed by our lack of communication. I knew two things: the depth of our feelings for one another and the fact that absence makes the heart as well as the libido grow stronger. I had little doubt that Stoker missed me—all of me. No, the fact that he had taken his leave so abruptly and with no effort at a proper good-bye did not distress me in the slightest. And while another woman might have grown increasingly irritated that the post forwarded from England brought not the merest scrap of a postcard to say nothing of a proper letter, I naturally devoted myself entirely to the study of lepidoptery. I passed my days in hunting specimens that flittered and fluttered from the Dolomites to the Sicilian hills and back again. I grew leaner and more firmly muscled from scrambling over peaks and pastures. I set out at daybreak each morning from our lodgings, when the night’s dew still bespangled the grasses at my feet. I did not return until the languid golden sun dropped beyond the horizon, leaving a few last gentle rays to show me the way back. I never used my net; its presence was merely a habit from my previous expeditions. Instead I followed the butterflies, making careful study of their mazy peregrinations, their behaviours and habitats. And when I returned to the solitude of my room, I spent long hours writing up my findings both for my private notes and for publication in the Aurelian journals. Invariably, I dropped into bed exhausted by my exertions, only to rise at dawn and repeat the process. Not for me the languid evening passed in mournful contemplation of the distance—both literal and figurative—between myself and the person I considered to be my twinned soul. I would not permit myself to waste away in pining and regret. I had the celibate consolations of science, and I made full advantage of them. If I am to be strictly honest within these pages—and I have sworn to be so—then I will admit to the occasional wakeful night or interminable afternoon when I found my thoughts inhabited by his familiar form and face. When these moods came upon me, so strong was my longing for him, it required all of my discipline to refrain from flinging my things into a bag and dashing to him. The only remedy was another strenuous day spent in pursuit of my studies, driving myself physically harder than ever before even as I enumerated his flaws. I cataloged them as I strode the Italian hills, whipping up my annoyance. “What sort of man just leaves? And without so much as a proper kiss good-bye,”I muttered to the nearest rock in a fit of particular frustration on the isle of Capri. “What kind of fellow thinks it is acceptable simply to disappear for months on end and send no assurances of his well-being? Not a telegram, not a semaphore flag, not so much as a scrap of a postcard with his current address? An ass,”I told the rock. But even as I said the words, I knew Stoker was not entirely to blame. He had left still believing I was the wife of another man. Only a handful of hours had passed between Stoker’s departure and my learning the truth of my marital status—that I was not, and never had been, legally married. Why then did I leap at Tiberius’invitation instead of rushing after Stoker to stop him before he left England? It was some months before I could face the answer: I was a coward. When I learnt of Stoker’s resolve to leave, to take time for himself to consider our attachment, my initial reaction, the longing of my heart, had been to go to him. And therein lay my terror. I, who had laboured and loved independent of real connection for so long, was entirely and besottedly enraptured with this man. When I most had need of a confidant, I had not turned to him out of fear of dependency, and when he left, the desire to run to him had kindled that fear once more. So I drove it out with hard physical exercise, with time and distance, hoping I could blunt the sharp edge of my resistance to committing myself fully to Stoker. My demeanour, ordinarily so tranquil as to be remarkable, was frequently waspish as I came back, always, to the fact that even if I wanted to go to him, he had insisted upon the gift of time. If time was what he wanted, he should have all the time in the world, I decided. In fact, I would grow weary and withered and ancient before I would stir a single step towards him. If I suffered from the loss of his company, then he should suffer as well, I decided. I had my dignity, after all. I do not know how long I might have maintained my lofty determination to wait for him to make the first move. I might still be wandering the Lombard hills, butterfly net in hand, had Tiberius not appeared one morning at breakfast, bags packed and travel arranged. Our hotel, a converted castello, was very fine and comfortable but with few of the comforts so beloved of the English traveler. The beds were hard, the pillows nonexistent, and the mosquitoes particularly aggressive. Worst of all possible woes, the tea was unspeakable and I had almost resigned myself to drinking coffee. I was peering into the murky depths of the teapot when Tiberius took the chair across from me. “I wish to find Stoker,”he said flatly. “Do you know where one might run him to ground?”I put aside the crime that passed for tea in those parts and gave him a level look. “Somewhere in Bavaria, if Lord Rosemorran’s letters are accurate. But his lordship can be vague about such things, and this is, after all, Stoker of whom we are speaking, a man inclined to follow his most wayward impulses. He might be in Batavia. Or Bolivia. Or Bechuana.”He did not respond to my little witticism and I gave him a close look. Tiberius was, like all the Templeton-Vane men, a singularly handsome fellow. But there were plummy shadows under his eyes, and a line, slim but severe, etched its way across his brow. “Tiberius, why

My Thoughts 
This eighth offering in the Veronica Speedwell series, finds both Stoker and Veronica both closer and farther apart than ever.  With more than enough murderous goings-on to keep readers guessing and pages turning. 

Fresh from a protracted bout of hurt feelings and wound licking while tramping through the wilds of Bavaria. 
Stoker finds himself not only reunited with our dear Miss V.  But also on a quest to prevent the murder of his brother,  Tiberius. 
During a house party at the family estate. 

Written with plot stylings favoring those of the classic, And Then There Were None.  A Sinister Revenge, offers readers a very atmospheric read.  Allowing scenes to be set as much by the house, grounds,  and character interactions.  To the same or greater degrees as any other plot elements. 
Sweetening the most suspenseful pot.  The ever present guessing game of who will be the next to die. With some serious Regency Romance flavors thrown in. 

As well as the more pressing and personal question of whether Stoker and Veronica's tattered relationship can survive the 'husband debacle' of the previous book.
As well as a closer look down the rabbit hole into Stoker's past.
It must be said that this book as well as its predecessor offers a more intimate experience.   That while a nice change from the more traveled and action packed stories of the past.  May take a little more time to draw the reader in than one is accustomed to.

All in all...
This is a middle of the road read for what is a stellar series. 
Here's hoping that the journey will continue in coming reads.

About Deanna 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Deanna Raybourn is a 6th-generation native Texan. She graduated with a double major in English and history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of one, Raybourn makes her home in Virginia. Her novels have been nominated for numerous awards including two RT Reviewers’ Choice awards, the Agatha, two Dilys Winns, a Last Laugh, three du Mauriers, and most recently the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She launched a new Victorian mystery series with the 2015 release of A CURIOUS BEGINNING, featuring intrepid butterfly-hunter and amateur sleuth, Veronica Speedwell. Veronica has returned in several more adventures, most recently AN IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSTOR, book seven, which released in early 2022. Deanna's first contemporary novel, KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE, about four female assassins on the cusp of retirement publishes in September 2022. (Please note: Deanna is not active on GR.)

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