A Curious Beginning
(Veronica Speedwell Mystery Series Book 1)
by Deanna Raybourn
Veronica Speedwell is an English spinster of about 25 who makes her living as a lepidopterist, a collector of butterflies. When she has the money, she takes expeditions to different parts of the world to gather her specimens which she sells to collectors for money to go on her next expedition.
The book opens with Veronica at the funeral of her last remaining aunt. The two older ladies raised her from infancy and she believes she is a foundling. But strange events begin with the funeral and lead to her being whisked away to London by a German baron who tells her she’s in danger and claims to have known her mother.
In London, he leaves her with a grumpy natural historian who goes by the name of Mr. Stoker. (Not his real name.) After the baron is killed, the two of them go on the road and things get curiouser and curiouser. And more dangerous.
The book takes place in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne, but Veronica is not your typical Victorian lady. Like the butterflies she loves and kills, she’s a free spirit, though she keeps her more unconventional behaviors, like indulging in sexual liaisons with foreign gentlemen, to her travels.
Stoker is a man with a past, and it’s a while until we find out how he received the scar on his face and even longer until we learn his internal wounds. Veronica is a good match for him. She’s not the least sentimental and keeps him in line with her sharp tongue.
Along the way we visit behind the scenes of a traveling carnival with a group of odd and sometimes dangerous characters. The writing is often amusing, esp. Veronica and Stoker’s banter. They push each others’ buttons, but are able to work together as an effective team. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to more of their adventures.
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