By: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN #: 978-0-451-47601-2
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 25, 2015
Bestselling author Deanna Raybourn introduces Veronica Speedwell, a woman extraordinaire, in the first of a new series: A Curious Beginning.
Veronica Speedwell is a woman of substance well before her time. She travels the world in her quest of scientific inquiry. Her specific interest? Butterflies. After burying her spinster aunt, Nell Harbottle, Veronica is now an orphan. She is free to reignite her lust for travel to parts unknown in search of the discovery of unique and coveted butterflies. Of course, the necessity of adding a bit of romantic dalliance along the way is a must. However, she is unprepared for the danger that lurks on her horizon—a danger that targets her and her true identity. Upon returning from her aunt’s funeral to Wren Cottage, Veronica is unprepared for the disarray she happens upon once entering the cottage. Furniture is turned on its side and cupboards are toppled inside out. Unfortunate for her, the interloper is still close by. It would seem, she is the last item he intends to collect before departing...
Perhaps not by coincidence, German baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach arrives on the scene at the ready to her rescue. With no time to waste and little to flee into the night, Veronica finds herself at the mercy of the Baron and on their way to London. Upon arriving in London, Veronica is deposited for safe-keeping with an old (and quite eclectic) compadre of the Baron’s: Stoker. With little explanation and a fair amount of resistance, Miss Speedwell acquiesces for the time being to stay with this character Stoker of whom the Baron assures her is a trustworthy sort. Sadly, the best laid plans of the Baron are foiled when his anticipated return to collect her is thwarted. It would seem he has been murdered and as time will tell, Stoker will be the prime suspect...
Deanna Raybourn has a great touch of her pen in knowing how to spin a mystery. The period is 1887 London and the characters are well suited and properly defined to match the era. The dialect is the King’s English and Raybourn owns her nuance as she develops main character Veronica Speedwell. The author also accurately portrays women back in the day who were equally matched to their male counterparts. The pace is vibrant and the twists and turns happen consistently throughout this read. Ms. Raybourn accomplishes what every great mystery writer must do: she delivers the body and does so early on. Raybourn’s intended audience is taken on a fantastic journey across this 337 page read. The reader is easily coaxed to interact and participate with the plot as he or she seeks the answer of: ‘Who Done It’? Set up to dialogue provides a sense of familiarity for the reader to feel as it prepares that same reader to hear the conversation. Coming off of her Lady Julia Grey mysteries and launching into the adventures of Veronica Speedwell is a win/win. I look forward to reading the next installment of this new series. Well done Ms. Raybourn.
Quill says: Veronica Speedwell is a proper English lady who is unafraid to soil her hands if that’s what it takes to be a heroine as well.