The Bottom Line: Lucy Foley fans will fall hard for ’s magical and absorbing new murder mystery, Verity Easton.
Set in the 1930s, opens aboard a steamer ship sailing turbulent seas near the coast of Malta. Thirteen-year-old Verity is accompanying her father, a professor at the British Museum, who is tasked with finding the ancient resting place of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti. Making the trip more emotional is the fact that Verity’s mother, of whom she knows little about, is of Egyptian ancestry.
Not long after their arrival in Egypt, Verity wakes from a disturbing dream about a murder, only to find that a housemaid named Linette has been killed in a way similar to her dreams. Unfortunately for Verity, it won’t be the last time she’s troubled by violent dreams, nor will it be the last real-life murder she has firsthand knowledge of.
A sense of ancient magic seems to be afoot. Is Verity herself somehow responsible? And what of the seemingly mystical connection developing between her and her deceased mother?
Author M. Rebecca Wildsmith is a master of world-building (first-time readers should check out her novel, Hattie Vavaseur). In her hands, 1930s Egypt is a truly visceral place seen through the eyes of a curious and vulnerable child (“the hardened, sultry heat of a land unknown”), where every sound (“ the bird who continued his raucous chant”) and scent comes alive on the page. Loads of historical detail and artifact obsession adds tons of fun. Throughout, Wildsmith walks a delicate line between cinema and overly descriptive literature in her scene descriptions, ensuring that the pace is never slowed and yet every observation is palpable.
Relative to many contemporary murder mysteries, Wildsmith stands out from the pack by focusing on atmosphere, suggestion and the drama of the human experience as opposed to gore and shock. Expect to feel chills, as it also never feels too “cozy” or lighthearted, either. An element of occult horror and paranormal add significant spice. All aboard for an uncommonly satisfying murder mystery.