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A Curious Beginning (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Since the last full length Lady Julia Grey book in 2011, The Dark Enquiry (I haven’t read the novellas as they are only available as ebooks) I have been jonesing for a new mystery novel from Deanna Raybourn and now I can happily say she is back with a whole new series! With a fantastic new heroine!

Victoria Speedwell a lepidopterist of some renown. She has traveled all over the world to find new and exotic flitting, bright butterflies to write about and sell. But for the past couple of years, her wings have been clipped as she’s been bound to a small English village caring for her aunt through her last illness. After the elderly lady is buried, Miss Speedwell has plans to travel the world in pursuit of her elusive winged friends. Well that’s the plan anyway.

Everything goes pear shaped when, upon return home from her aunt’s funeral to retrieve her travel bag Miss Speedwell discovers that her home is being burgled. After a scuffle and a surprising rescue, Miss Speedwell finds herself embroiled in machinations she knows nothing about and cannot fathom. She is teamed up with another naturalist, a Mr. Stoker (no relation to Bram, thank goodness) who swears an oath to his oldest friend promising to keep her safe from persons unknown. The situation quickly devolves to simple flight as Miss Speedwell needs to keep moving or a past she never knew she had is going to catch up with her….

Lepidopterist is the term used for people who collect and/or study butterflies and moths (although Miss Speedwell would never be caught among the “moth people”). This term was coined by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish scientist who is known as the father of modern taxonomy (he came up with the universally accepted method of naming living things) and is one of the fathers of modern ecology (among other notable accomplishments). And to complete your quota of random trivia for the day, Vladimir Nabokov the author of Lolita, was an avid lepidopterist who wrote several highly technical papers about the subject! Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

The only two mysteries I found that featured lepidopterist charecters are in The Hound of the Baskervilles and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But in neither case does this passion/obsession figure into the stories in any truly meaningful way (or so I am told). In A Curious Beginning, this winged fascination is used with the utmost care by Raybourn. It provides motivation for Miss Speedwell: her traveling, her men and her living are all wrapped up in this scientific field. But what it does not do is take over the entire story; this book is not a themed novel - you will not have to worry about a whole string of butterfly themed books being published in the furture. Raybourn does a great job of keeping lepidoptery from overwhelming the story. Instead, it lends believability. I never once found it distracting; in fact I found it fascinating. So unless you suffer from Lepidopterophobia or Mottephobia (phobia of butterflies and moths as Nicole Kidman is rumored to have) I would recommend this book to you!

This is a lively adventure/mystery! It starts off with a bang and it is all go until the end and I had quite an enjoyable time on the ride! It does have a dollop of romantic tension without any bodice ripping present. The focus of the book is on Miss Speedwell and the adventure she inadvertently finds herself in. Now this is a historical mystery set in 1887 London, just so you know, and Miss Speedwell enjoys speaking her mind and doing things her own way - much to the shock and consternation of those around her.

My only critique for A Curious Beginning is a small one: in it Raybourn presses up to just this side of the line of having too many coincidences occurring in her story. But if you step back and look at the book as a fun adventure/mystery book, like Agatha Christie’s The Man In The Brown Suit, the issue melts away into a lively narrative which I found thoroughly enjoyable. I cannot wait until the next installment comes out! (Raybourn blogged she turned in the manuscript for the second book in the series at the end of August and I am really excited for it to come out!).

— Amber


In her thrilling new series, Deanna Raybourn, 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. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry--and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered--leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

About the Author

Deanna Raybourn, the author of the award-winning New York Times bestselling Lady Julia Grey series and several standalone novels, is pleased to introduce her new Victorian-set mystery series featuring Veronica Speedwell. Deanna lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780451476029
ISBN-10: 0451476026
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: July 12th, 2016
Pages: 368
Language: English
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery