A Curious Beginning – Deanna Raybourn

Publisher: NAL/Penguin

Publication: September 2015

ISBN: 9780451476012

In her thrilling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries, returns once more to Victorian England…and introduces intrepid adventuress Veronica Speedwell.

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

My review

Although I’m not the biggest fan of mysteries, this story of miss Veronica Speedwell was definitely worth the time. From the first chapter, where Veronica shows her quick wit and brushes of the meddling of the vicar and his wife: “Mrs. Clutterthorpe, I can hardly think of any fate worse than becoming the mother of six. Unless perhaps it were plague, and even then I am persuaded a few disfiguring buboes and possible death would be preferable to motherhood” I came to appreciate the young and independent woman. Certainly after her last remark to the vicar: “Oh, and you might tell your sources— it wasn’t an American in Sicily. It was a Swede. The American was in Costa Rica.” Quite hilarious, but I doubt that this would be actual conversation in that era. The story unfolds very rapidly, there is not a dull moment in the book. And there are some subtle hints that make your mind wander to where the story might unfold to. But then the story takes another turn, and you are again asking yourself what will be next. The first meeting of Veronica with Mr Stoker was also very intriguing. Veronica shows some skills close to the skills of Sherlock Holmes. My first association with his name was more of a what’s-a-vampire-doing-in-this-story feeling, but it proved me wrong. Another mislead from Deanna, because in the previous chapter there was some mention of pale skins and shadowed eyes. So, no vampires in this story. Nonetheless, Mr. Stoker was a grumpy and strange kind of guy, which you learn to appreciate in the unfolding of the story. Without wanting to reveal the ending of the story, Deanna has made sure that you want to keep on reading, to find out why Veronica keeps running into trouble. So in all, a very entertaining book, with lovely characters and a very surprising ending. Four out of five stars from me! 

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