Saturday, July 28, 2018

ARC Review: The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy

The Butterfly Conspiracy
Author: Vivian Conroy
Series: Merriweather and Royston Mystery
Publication: Crooked Lane Books (August 7, 2018)

Description: 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 honor 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 Thoughts: Merula Merriweather finds herself deep in a murder investigation when an evening at a Royal Zoological Society meeting includes a dead body. Worst of all, Lady Sophia dies after a butterfly Merula has hatched lands on her arm. The first diagnosis is that the butterfly poisoned her somehow. Merula's Uncle Rupert is arrested for the crime since, of course, the butterfly research had to have been his since women don't do that kind of thing. Also, he had recently had a loud argument with Lady Sophia whose nephew had been courting his daughter Julia.

Merula and a new acquaintance - Lord Raven Royston - manage to escape before Merula's connection to the butterfly can be exposed. The two of them have to find out who killed Lady Sophia while keeping out of the hands of the police. Luckily, Raven has a useful and eclectic variety of friends who will be assisting them with their detecting. Galileo is a science nerd who volunteers to test a second butterfly to assure that the butterflies are harmless and couldn't have killed Lady Sophia. Bowsprit is Raven't valet and a very good detective himself with a wide variety of contacts.

Among the suspects are Mr. Simon Foxwell, Julia's suitor and Lady Sophia's sole heir and Lord Havilock, the evenings host who wants some of his specimens back from Lady Sophia. Their investigation adds more suspects including Miss Knight who was Lady Sophia's companion but was in danger of being let go because Foxwell seemed to be trying to isolate Lady Sophia and make her dependent on him. Also, a young woman who is now a milliner but whose mother was formerly Lady Sophia's cook until being let go for accidentally adding an almond to a recipe which almost caused Lady Sophia to choke.

The mystery was entertaining. I liked Merula's determination to take care of the uncle who took her in and raised her when she was more-or-less left on their doorstep. I liked Raven who had a difficult past of his own. I liked the way the two of them and their contacts managed to figure out who really killed Lady Sophia and why. The setting of London in the 1890s was well done. I am eager to join Merula and Raven on their next adventure in Dartmoor.

Favorite Quote:
He looked at her, pale and tired. "Believe me, Merula, there is nothing worse than having to suppose a thousand things and not knowing one of them for sure."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm drawn by butterflies. This sounds like one I would like. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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