A Curious Beginning is the first book by Deanna Raybourn in the Veronica Speedwell historical crime mystery series. It’s been a while since I’ve read this book – back in August during my summer holidays, but several books which I had to read and review from before took chronological priority. Finally here I am, putting my thoughts on this book to virtual paper.
Veronica’s time is the turn of the century in the Victorian England, but she is way ahead of her time in every sense of the word. Veronica is independent, pragmatic and blessed with a scientific mind which makes her extremely curious and willing to learn, rather than thinking of settling down with a husband and x number of kids.
Now that her aunt Nell passed away, while Veronica does feel a bit overwhelmed, she also feels free to pick up her travels that would take her to unknown lands, just like she used to do in her earlier years.
Right after burying her aunt, however, her home gets broken into and surprise, surprise, the burglar is still in the house.
Veronica, being strong-headed as she is, runs after the burglar to apprehend him, however she is interrupted from her task by a gentleman who appears out of nowhere in a carriage. He introduces himself to her as being the Baron Maximilian von Stauffenbach, and tells her that her life is in danger and he can offer his protection if she goes with him to London.
Reluctantly Veronica agrees, admitting to herself that she is curious about this older gentleman whom she also seem to like enough to consider harmless and rather deluded about her so-called dangerous situation.
In addition when the Baron mentions her parents, whom she never knew, as linked to her so-called perilous circumstances, she decides that she wants to know more and finally gets into his carriage with the knowledge that should any danger arise, she is well armed with weapons that she is definitely not afraid to use.
The Baron, as much as Veronica tries to pry out of him, does not reveal more at this time, but promises her to tell everything later on, in London. With this, he brings her to the house of a young man called Stoker, whom she asks to watch over her until he is back, because she needs protection. He tells her that he trusts Stoker with life, and Veronica will be in good hands for the immediate future. And with this he departs, leaving the two young people alone, weary and not trusting each other for one bit.
When the next day the newspaper tells of the Baron’s murder, they both know that something more sinister is really going on, and the only thing they can do now is escape from the London house to keep Veronica safe, while at the same time try to find out why the Baron was killed – especially when Stoker becomes suddenly the main suspect in the Baron’s murder.
From then on Veronica and Stoker go through a lot of adventures that put them alternatively in danger, while the other does whatever is possible to save him or her. This is just the start of a long, trusting and very interesting relationship with lots of sexual tension between the two, although none of them acts on it at all (much to my disappointment). Maybe in the next book.
While the action and suspense is a constant in the book, there is an underlying easiness in the story line due to the often fun and witty conversations and word exchanges between the two main characters. The book is afterall a historical romantic suspense novel, not a hardcore crime mystery.
A Curious Beginning is extremely well written, and no surprises there, coming from the author of another popular historical mystery series, Lady Julia Gray, which readers basically adore. The writer is not new to putting intelligent, addictive and clever words to paper, and it shows.
Overall I loved this book – the action really started after Veronica and Stoker got together, but what fun and exciting action that was! And what a great pair they are. I’m looking forward now to the second book, where I hope the two will still be together solving crimes and teasing each other mercilessly at times.