FICTION

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

NAL. Sept. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780451476012. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698198203. MYS
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OrangeReviewStarAfter the death of her aunt in June 1887, Miss Veronica Speedwell believes herself to be free to begin foreign travels in search of exotic butterflies, but a cottage break-in and a kind old gentleman to the rescue persuade her otherwise. Not long after, she is nominally placed under the protection of fellow explorer Revelstoke ("Stoker") Templeton-Vane—it's hard to tell who's looking after whom—and their adventures begin. Creating strong character pairings, placing the action in unexpectedly unusual but actual historical settings, and folding it all into a clever mystery are hallmarks of this author's magical, signature style. Veronica engages in boldly inappropriate activities for women of the Victorian era but remains genuinely likable, adding a pleasant zest. Stoker's backstory allows his upbringing and past experiences to aid Veronica's investigations without becoming the primary focus. Readers will discover just enough about these two and hints of curiously reticent secondary characters to make the next in this (one hopes) long series eagerly anticipated.
VERDICT For longtime fans of Raybourn's "Lady Julia Grey" series or readers who like out-of-the-ordinary historical mysteries that are completely satisfying, this new series starts off with a bang.

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