Sophie Cleverly has been one of my favorite middle-grade authors for several years now, ever since I discovered her Scarlet and Ivy series. A Case of Misfortune is the second book in her latest series—The Violet Veil Mysteries—and follows thirteen-year-old Violet Veil, an undertaker’s daughter who lives in Victorian-era London with her greyhound Bones and has the ability to communicate with ghosts.
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A Case of Misfortune picks up right after book one with Violet hoping to find a new mystery to solve. After placing her own advertisement in the window of her father’s shop, Violet is contacted by Miss Li whose controlling father recently died. A locket Miss Li threw into the man’s grave has mysteriously reappeared on her nightstand following a prophecy revealed to Miss Li’s sister by a local psychic that it would return. Miss Li explains that her sister and brother-in-law are devoted attendees at the Grecian Theatre where the psychic—going by the name of Lady Athena—regularly performs. The theatre is now asking for investors and Miss Li is concerned for her sister. The prophecy seemingly coming true has made her a true believer in Lady Athena’s abilities and inclined to give away much of her fortune.
Violet and her best friend Oliver immediately take on the case, heading to the theatre to investigate, but they soon discover a string of recent prophecies, each one apparently fulfilled. Violet suspects that Lady Athena is a fraud, but how can she prove it, and if she is indeed a fake, then just how are her prophecies coming true? When the stakes are suddenly raised, Violet finds herself once again in real danger, just as her own stubbornness threatens to cut her off from those she cares for.
I ended up enjoying A Case of Misfortune rather more than I did A Case of Grave Danger. I think that’s in large part because in this second book we were able to launch straight into the story without too much time spent introducing the characters and Violet’s abilities. I also found the plot far less predictable with lots of interesting twists and turns. I personally didn’t pin down who was behind everything until it was revealed in the story, unlike in book one where the ending had felt a little subpar.
The introduction of two new characters around Violet’s age (Niko and Eleni) was refreshing, and I hope they will become recurring characters. The pair also added some much-needed diversity to the series as both have Greek heritage and Eleni uses a wheelchair. I appreciated that Oliver’s character is still recovering from the trauma he suffered in book one instead of those events being forgotten about in service of a new adventure. The friendship between him and Violet also has some significant ups and downs, just as you would expect from a relationship with such a strange power dynamic. (Oliver is older and male in a society that dismisses women, but he is still employed and housed by Violet’s family giving her some power over him.) Most importantly, Bones is still a vital part of the story, and once again, I find myself desperately wanting to adopt my own black greyhound.
One part of the book that really stood out to me was a conversation between Violet and her mother. Violet is frustrated at the limitations imposed on her by her family and society at large, lashing out against the boring chores she is expected to do including cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Her mother takes a firm stand, explaining the true value of what is seen as “women’s work” and the argument is resolved beautifully with Violet coming to see that she should not look down upon such things, whilst also having her frustration due to her lack of choice being respected and understood. Another moment that stood out came right at the end and hints that future books in this series might feature some significant world-building with regards to Violet’s supernatural abilities; it seems like there might be something more for us to get to the bottom of.
The Violet Veil Mysteries are shaping up to be as great a series as Scarlet and Ivy, and I’m already looking forward to reading book three, but as yet there is no word on when it might be published.
A Case of Misfortune is out now in the UK. For those in the US, the paperback is released on March 1st while the audiobook is already available. Don’t forget that book one in the series—A Case of Grave Danger—is out now everywhere.
GeekMom received a copy of this title for review purposes.