A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn
When her aunt dies Veronica Speedwell is left alone in the world and plans to travel the world, life however has other plans. Stepping into a robbery while returning from her aunt’s funeral, she is aided and rescued by a Baron who tells her she is in great danger. Veronica goes to London with him, hoping to learn about her mother, but ends up in the care of Stoker who promises to guard Veronica with his life. The Baron ends up dead and the two might be suspects for his murder so they leave London for safety and to buy time to figure out the mystery of who killed the Baron and why, which leads to a bigger mystery and life changing events for Veronica and Stoker.
The author creates a great cast of characters, with two strong leads in Veronica and Stoker, who also have realistic flaws that the other compliments. Veronica and Stoker are truly a great team and learn how to best work with each other. A romance does not blossom, and the reader is thankful for that as their relationship develops at an appropriate pace. Impressive read for many reason, and while at times events are predictable there is the possibility that the reader has it wrong, and you keep reading to figure out the result.
Cast of Characters & Book Summary:
Veronica Speedwell = has a passion for lepidoptery and men, has violet eyes (from her mother), has Malaria that comes at an unfortunate time in the traveling show. Buried her Aunt Nell Harbottle, who raised Veronica along with her sister telling her she was an orphan her entire life, and moving from small village to small village every few months. Reads books about a female investigator and tries to model herself after the investigator while solving the murder of the Baron and uncovering hidden secrets that caused his murder.
Mrs. Clutterthorpe = local Vicar’s wife, feels that Veronica is not able to care for herself and tries to arrange a marriage to a widower with several children, Veronica rejects that arrangement and tells her what she really thinks of it.
Baron Maximilia von Staffenbach = saves Veronica from an attack, bring her to London and leaves her in the care of Stoker, is murdered in his own study by a weapon of convenience. Police suspect Stoker is the murderer, as Max owns the warehouse Stoker lives and works in. Kept secrets for Veronica’s mother and father.
Revelstoke “Stoker” Templeton-Vane = who Max entrusts Veronica’s safety to, taxidermist, surgeon, former navy, his wife died during his horrible Amazon expedition. Has anger issues due to past wrongs, a naturalist, Veronica uses that to get him to help solve the mysteries that abound. Presents Veronica as his wife to the traveling show. Believes Veronica was the intended murder victim, not Max, and calls in random people to help with information that is uncovered.
Lord Ambrose Rosemorran = Stoker is preparing an elephant for him, Veronica and Stoker go to him for help and are given safe hiding. Ends up giving the two of them jobs.
Badger = brings newspapers and meat to Stoker, trying to care for 7 siblings and an ailing mother. Stoker helps him in small ways and entrusts, Huxley, his bull dog to him while Veronica and he go on the run. Offers to stay and help with the final show down but is told he is not to be there.
Edmund de Clare = attempts to kidnap Veronica in the train station, and again while she is walking with Stoker. Veronica’s uncle and his motives may not be family oriented.
Professor Pygopagus = runs a traveling circus, Stoker was once part of the group when he ran away from home, and allows Veronica and Stoker to return as long as they earn their keep.
Colosso = about 7 feet tall, has an Italian accent, hates Stoker, the last night in the circus Stoker and he have a fight.
Sally “Salome” = oriental in appearance, principal dancer, offers to help Veronica with clothing and learning her way around. Once was a lover of Stoker and tries to seduce him while he and Veronica are in the circus.
Otto = Professor’s conjoined twin brother who does not talk, but instead plays songs through his accordion.
Mornaday = one of the horse grooms in the circus, Veronica notices his hands are too soft to be a grooms. Was undercover in the circus, as he is an Inspector for the Special Branch of Scotland Yard. Rescues Veronica and Stoker from her uncle and cousins and requests that they leave England.
Lady Cordelia = Lord Rosemorran’s sister, manages his estate and children, agree to let Stoker and Veronica hide in one of the buildings on the grounds while Stoker is wanted for Max’s murder.
Sidonie = Lady C’s maid, has a crush on Stoker
Sir Hugo Montgomerie = knew Stoker as a child, worked for his father, now is head of the Special Branch of Scotland Yard. Tries to buy Veronica’s silence at the end, but she refuses the money and asks him to just trust her.