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Listening to Lady Detectives: Two Audiobook Reviews

For awhile, my favorite genre for audiobooks was celebrity memoirs, but recently I’ve been diving into another rabbit hole – Victorian-era lady detectives.

My first audiobook of 2018 was the second in the Veronica Speedwell series, A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn, narrated by Angèle Masters. Veronica is a butterfly collector and scientist who, in this book, is commissioned by a mysterious noblewoman to save a man accused of the brutal murder of his mistress. As they try to solve the mystery, Veronica and her partner, a brooding and handsome natural historian, find themselves pulled into a world of art, debauchery, and a secret Victorian-era sex club.

Like the first book in the series, I thought this one was utterly charming. Veronica is a delightful narrator, and the chemistry she has with her partner, Stoker, is magnetic. The dialogue is snappy and funny, and works especially well on audio because Veronica and Stoker spend a lot of time talking out different scenarios for the whodunit. It’s very easy to follow, which I appreciated in this format.

My second audiobook this year was a Study in Scarlet Women, written by Sherry Thomas and narrated by Kate Reading. It’s the first in a series that reimagines Sherlock Holmes as the alias of a young woman named Charlotte Holmes, cast out from society and forced to make her way in the world using her sparkling intellect (and with more than a little help from her friends).

While I enjoyed the characters in the book – Charlotte is odd and funny, and her Mrs. Watson and friends are well-drawn – I didn’t feel this audio book was quite as successful. The plot jumps around a bit, which made it difficult for me to follow along with the mystery. And because it’s a Sherlock Holmes novel, which relies on a character just knowing and observing more than the rest of us, it occasionally felt like the mystery was being solved at random. I loved the relationships that Thomas set up between various characters, along with Charlotte’s stubbornness to push against the constraints she faces, but just wasn’t as enamored with the plot.

I’m trying to rely on my local library for my next audio selection, but I’m really not sure what lady detective to spend time with next since I’m at the end of the available books in both of these series. Deanna Raybourn has another series I might try, or perhaps I’ll see what’s available for my first lady detective love, Amelia Peabody. And of course I’m open to suggestions – who are your favorite Victorian-era lady detectives?

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Readerlane February 8, 2018, 9:14 am

    A Perilous Undertaking sounds delightful, and I’ve added it to my library list. Have you tried Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series? They are a lot of fun. Also, I just finished Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness and kept thinking how great it would be as audiobook. The time period is later though.

    • Kim February 11, 2018, 8:25 pm

      Thanks for the suggestions! Her Royal Spyness sounds delightful, that’s going on my list for sure.

  • jenn aka the picky girl February 8, 2018, 9:36 am

    Ooh, the first sounds intriguing. I like the idea of this better than ones that constantly try to reinvent Sherlock Holmes. I’d just rather read the original. Thanks for the reviews!

    • Kim February 11, 2018, 8:28 pm

      I agree! I don’t mind reinventions of Holmes, but this one just ended up not being quite as satisfying as I’d hoped it would be.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) February 8, 2018, 1:56 pm

    I think my mother would enjoy both of these.

  • Kay February 8, 2018, 3:14 pm

    There is a new book in the Veronica Speedwell series that just came out in January – A Treacherous Curse. Raybourn’s other series, Lady Julia Grey, is maybe less serious on the detective angle, but it’s definitely a mystery series. There is also Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series. Also, Anna Lee Huber has the Lady Darby series and Laura Joh Rowland has The Mortal Likeness. There’s a few to try. 🙂

    • Kim February 11, 2018, 8:29 pm

      Yes! I’m waiting on the third one to show up in our library collection so I can check it out… or I may splurge on Audible to listen soon. Thanks for the other suggestions, those all sound like fun.

  • Tasha B (heidenkind) February 8, 2018, 11:59 pm

    The Invisible Library! Not a Victorian per se, but the heroine is stationed in a steampunk Victorian London. It’s one of my current favorite series

    • Kim February 11, 2018, 8:29 pm

      Oh yes! I have that in print on my shelf but didn’t think about doing it in audio. Great idea.

  • Jenny aka Sister February 9, 2018, 7:43 am

    I have heard this series is good.
    A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee
    Finishing school that is actually a training center for young spies in Victorian London – sounds up your alley and also something I have been meaning to read 🙂

    • Kim February 11, 2018, 8:30 pm

      Ooooo, that’s a good one too.

  • iliana February 9, 2018, 4:27 pm

    Both of these I totally want to read! Have you read the Anna Lee Huber series? Her Lady Darby mystery is really great and that reminds me I need to catch up on the series.

    • Kim February 11, 2018, 8:31 pm

      I have not, but it’s going on my list to look for!

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey February 11, 2018, 8:49 pm

    Books with lady detectives seems like a delightful sub-genre! I would love to read both of these.

  • Julie @ Smiling Shelves February 18, 2018, 2:46 pm

    Those Deanna Raybourn covers keep catching my eye. Victorian lit is some of my favorite, and what could be better than adding a lady detective to it?

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