A few years ago, I fell in love with a middle-grade book series named Scarlet and Ivy, set in an English boarding school in the 1930s. That series has reached its conclusion and tomorrow its author – Sophie Cleverly – releases the first book of her latest series: The Violet Veil Mysteries, which is set in the Victorian era.
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Book one – A Case of Grave Danger – introduces 13-year-old Violet Veil, the daughter of the town’s undertaker. Violet has grown up living in the undertaker’s shop, next door to the cemetery, and feels as if she herself lives somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead. She can even hear ghostly whispers whenever she and her black greyhound Bones take a stroll between the gravestones. Violet wants nothing more than to become her father’s apprentice, but becoming an undertaker is not seen as an appropriate life for a young lady in her era, much to her chagrin.
When Violet hears a disturbance one night, she creeps downstairs to find one of the newly arrived coffins empty and its former occupant wandering around the cemetery in a state of confusion. It quickly becomes clear that Oliver was the victim of a botched attack, the fifth in a series of such attacks that have so far claimed the lives of four other young men. It appears that a serial killer is on the loose, only Oliver’s head injury has caused him to lose his memories and any clues that he might have remembered have been lost too.
Violet resolves to help Oliver remember who he is and help bring his killer to justice. However, when the police arrive at her door and arrest her father on suspicion of the murders, her mission becomes even more personal. Violet is convinced that her father is being framed and the evidence has been planted, but the police refuse to listen to a young girl and continue with their prosecution. With her father soon due to hang for his supposed crimes, only Violet can save him with some help from Oliver and Bones, but is she certain her father is innocent, and who is that mysterious Woman in Black who keeps hanging around their home?
I read this first Violet Veil book in a matter of hours. It’s quick-paced, easy-to-read, and introduces some brilliant characters who I’m already excited to learn more about as this series progresses. Violet is bold, opinionated, and determined in a way that will no doubt inspire the young readers who pick up this book, Oliver is charming and adorable (he reminded me in some ways of the young Will Turner from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film), and I now desperately want me very own whip-smart black greyhound. In fact, Bones was probably my favorite character of all!
The story itself didn’t grip me quite as much as the Scarlet and Ivy series did, however, this is only the first book of the series and I fully expect that these books will grow in depth just as their predecessors did. I also found the conclusion to be a slight letdown simply because I was expecting some more twists and turns instead of the rather clear cut route to the final reveal that was the case, however, the book’s intended middle-grade audience may well feel very differently, especially those who have not read any murder mysteries before and are therefore less familiar with the tropes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this first Violet Veil book and know for sure that I will be picking up the next one in the series. The story does a great job of including many of the admittedly morbid details about living in an undertaker’s shop that will fascinate kids without traumatizing them, and I enjoyed how ghosts were included without ever taking over the plot; the resolutions to the books’ several mysteries would have been far too easy to come across if Violet had simply been able to ask her spirit realm friends whodunnit! I also enjoyed watching Violet push against the boundaries imposed upon her because she is a girl, and I hope this is something we will continue to see over the coming books so we can see her finally achieve her goals.
The Violet Veil Mysteries: A Case of Grave Danger is a great start to what I hope will become another brilliant series from Sophie Cleverly.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.