A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery, by Deanna Raybourn, New American Library, September 2015, Hardcover, 352pp
Full disclosure: while I have never met Ms. Deanna Raybourn in person, I do Twitter-stalk her and she has given my Tweets attention now and again. However, our connection is virtual and casual, neither she nor anyone connected with this novel sent it to me (I got it from the library after QUITE A WAIT) and I write about books because I want to, not because I am in any way remunerated or rewarded – well, except with the pleasure reading a good book brings, and THAT is more than enough reward.
Veronica Speedwell, returning from her spinster aunt’s funeral, thwarts a home invasion and comes justhisclose to being abducted. With an assist from a mysterious baron who claims knowledge of secrets about her past which put her in mortal danger, she heads for London where peril and discoveries await. Also waiting — though unsuspecting and impatient to the point of boiling — is the baron’s friend, Stoker, the scarred, tattooed, tempting taxidermist, historian, and who knows what else, to whom the baron entrusts Ms. Speedwell’s safety. But, with hatpin, revolver, guile, and vigor, Ms. Speedwell can — and does — take care of herself.
I was as charmed and fascinated by Veronica Speedwell as I am by Deanna Raybourn — who, as I mentioned, I follow on Twitter — and who has more than a little in common with the heroine of this new series; both are brilliant, witty, beautiful, and certain of themselves with a refreshing and inspiring energy. I hate to say they have pluck — but, it’s better than spunk.
(Interesting aside: Pluck was once slang for the act of sex, and spunk is slang for the male essence produced from sexual arousal, so, while the Ms’s Raybourn and Speedwell both have a healthy appreciation for things arousing, perhaps I ought to say they share the quality of Moxie? Mettle? Backbone? Oh hell, I just want to be GBF to either or both!)
Having read other of Ms. Raybourn’s work, I was reasonably certain I would enjoy A Curious Beginning, but when I saw cover blurbs from Rhys Bowen, author of Her Royal Spyness Series, and Alan Bradley, author of the Flavia de Luce Series, I was even more eager to dive in.
I was not disappointed. Along with a ripping and riveting plot, the rhythms and syntax of the writing manage to evoke another time and place without bogging down in heavy-handed historical hoity-toity-ness, so that the delighted reader is actually transported to Ms. Speedwell’s world, given a sense of belonging by the dramatic, thrilling, and often laugh-out-loud conjuring of the very gifted Ms. Raybourn. Particularly enthralling is Ms. Speedwell’s embrace and enjoyment of her sexual nature while Mr. Stoker is so reticent to explore his, nice plot point.
Speaking of plot, there is plenty. Veronica and Stoker run from assailants and secrets, the source of which are finally uncovered; or, are they? There is room for many a sequel, many a new adventure, and I look forward to the ride, the romp, the rollick as written by Ms. Raybourn on whom one can count for intelligent and insightful writing with a sly, saucy wit and worldly wisdom, as well as characters who are surprising and seriously entertaining. I will add Victoria Speedwell to the “looked-forward-to-&-anxiously-await-next-installment” list alongside Ms. Bowen’s Georgie and Mr. Bradley’s Flavia.