Welcome to the Victorian era in England! Meet Veronica Speedwell, lepidopterist and world traveler!
Today’s definition: a lepidopterist is “a person who studies and collects butterflies and moths.” Veronica Speedwell, however, has nothing in common with the organisms she pursues with such scientific fervor. In fact, I can’t think of anyone less deserving of the moniker “society butterfly” than Miss Speedwell. She is practical, energetic, and wears sensible attire for chasing over all sorts of terrain to capture moths and butterflies.
We first meet Veronica Speedwell in A Curious Beginning, during which Veronica finds herself alone in the world, having suffered the loss of her aunt who brought her up. Mysterious strangers arrive in the neighborhood, and Veronica accepts the company of a German nobleman so she can get a free trip to London. Much to her surprise, her benefactor hides her with a reclusive natural historian called Stoker, who has his own secrets, including a warehouse hideout where he works on taxidermy. This is a plot that has puzzles thick on the ground, and Veronica and Stoker create an unlikely and reluctant partnership as they attempt to unravel the mysteries that surround them.
In the second installment in the series, A Perilous Undertaking, Veronica and Stoker have been hired to catalog a huge and varied collection of artifacts, collected by one aristocratic family, from around the globe. Veronica is summoned away from her work to a scientific ladies’ club. There, she forms a mysterious acquaintance who requests her assistance in solving a murder that has taken place in one of England’s most decadent artistic communities. Stoker, naturally, joins her in pursuing leads and information to uncover the true killer. Much of the mystery surrounds the motivations of the suspects in the case, including Veronica herself as well as the woman who enlists her help.
The historical details ring true, and they are coupled with an energetic prose style that is arresting throughout the book. Veronica is curious, determined, and sometimes hard to like; but it is always fascinating to see what she is going to say and do next!
Other first books in Victorian mystery series include:
And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry