Perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell mysteries comes the enchanting series debut from Vivian Conroy, The Butterfly Conspiracy.

In late Victorian times, when new inventions cause both excitement and terror, a mysterious death at a zoological lecture brings together two unlikely allies in a quest through London’s upper crust and underbelly to unravel the ingenious murder method and killer behind it.

Miss Merula Merriweather is not like other women her age: instead of hunting for a husband at balls and soirees, she spends her time in a conservatory hatching exotic creatures. As the Royal Zoological Society won’t accept a woman’s accomplishments, she has her uncle Rupert take credit for her achievements. But at a zoological lecture, the guest of honour dies after contact with one of Merula’s butterflies, and Merula’s uncle is arrested for murder

In an attempt to safeguard evidence to prove his innocence, Merula almost gets killed but for the timely interference of enigmatic Lord Raven Royston. Viewing natural history as a last resort to regain respectability lost by too many dubious business investments, Raven didn’t expect his first lecture to take a murderous turn. Feeling partially responsible because he encouraged Merula to release the gigantic butterfly from the glass case in which it was kept, Raven suggests they solve the puzzle of Lady Sophia’s sudden death together by looking closer at her relations with estranged friends, long-suffering staff and the man groomed to be her heir, so close to her money and yet unable to touch any of it.

With the police looking for them, and every new discovery raising more questions than answers, especially about the murder method which left no traces of foul play on the body, Merula will have to risk her own life to get at the truth and save her uncle from the gallows in The Butterfly Conspiracy, Vivian Conroy’s enchanting series debut.

My View

I am a huge fan of Ms Conroy’s Cosy Mysteries for a while now, they are stylish, intriguing and fun to read and when I heard about this new Victorian-set series I couldn’t wait to get my sticky fingers on it. I have been avidly awaiting this book for ages and this is just so good, with a feel of Sherlock Holmes this is a fantastic start to what I know is going to be an intriguing and fabulous series.

Set during the dark and somewhat forward-thinking Victorian era – I do love this era! After reading her twenties set, the Lady Alkmene series, I have been eager to see what Ms Conroy does with one of my favourite eras and I have to say that she has taken the Cosy Mystery genre and this era and stamped her name all over it. I was hooked from the onset, the spidery web of intrigue that Ms Conroy has woven is clever and immersive.

Merula Merriweather would rather be tucked away in her conservatory, tending to her exotic Butterflies which she is hatching or learning the newest in Zoological research. She isn’t bothered about balls and fashions or even finding a husband like her cousin, she is a breath of fresh air and definitely a character that women can relate to. Merula has just gone and hatched one of the rarest butterflies in the world and she is eager to show it off to the Zoological society and prove that yes it does exist but as she is a woman in the Victorian era she isn’t allowed so she shows her work under her uncle Rupert’s name.

After being raised by her aunt and uncle since a baby, due to scandalous beginnings, her uncle has always treated her just like a daughter. I really like Rupert he has always encouraged her thirst for knowledge and aided her research and interests, I think he too finds her unselfish personality and need to learn and prove what she believes in, to be a rare and beautiful thing and he is always willing to help her in any way he can just as he does with his more stereotypical society daughter.

Merula takes her newly hatched Butterfly along to the Zoological society’s meeting to show it, to say that Merula is excited is an understatement. Once there she meets we meet some of the most interesting people, they really are a mixed bunch and one of their numbers is the mysterious and rakish Lord Raven Royston – don’t you love that name? While there that everything goes wrong for Merula, and one thing leads to another and the night is ruined by the murder of a Lady Sophia but more than that her Uncle Rupert has been accused of the murder.

It is at this point that the wonderfully dynamic Raven and intelligent but naive Merula have to join forces to try to solve the murder. This is just the start of what I hope is to be an ongoing series, these two are brilliant together. They work so well their different personalities bounce off one other and yet they come together and create this great partnership. I like the fact that there is a hint of a romance between them, it is only the tiniest little thing, but it opens up their story of what could be. I like how Conroy has done that, it makes you wonder but doesn’t take any attention away from the actual story.

It starts off like a regular historical we meet the leading lady, who I thought to be a wonderful and clever lady who is way before her time. Literally, she is thinking decades ahead. Then we meet irresistible and charming Raven, he’s great protective and so sure of himself, but he’s got a real soft heart. Once we have left the confines of the house and we delve into the murky world of murder this story becomes something else, capturing your attention. It keeps hold of you throughout the twisty plot until it reaches the climatic end.

If you love reading the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous detective; Sherlock Holmes then this is definitely right up your street, in fact by reading this I am keen to read some Sherlock Holmes myself. This is just fabulous, Vivian Conroy can do no wrong for me, but this is by far her best work to date, I absolutely loved it!

The Butterfly Conspiracy is to be released on 7th August and can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.

This was an ARC copy via the author in exchange for an honest review.

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