The Butterfly Conspiracy

Written by Vivian Conroy
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Unable to showcase her knowledge about the natural history of butterflies in Victorian England, Merula Merriweather must pretend that her uncle Rupert is the expert on the newest of her species discoveries—Attacus atlas. Merula nonetheless cannot resist revealing the newly hatched specimen at a meeting of the Royal Zoological Society. Released from its makeshift container, the butterfly spreads its massive brick-red, gold-tipped wings, rises in the air, and comes to rest on the arm of Lady Sophia. Seconds later Lady Sophia falls to the floor and lies dead.

Merula is determined to absolve her butterfly—and her uncle who is arrested for murder—from blame. She is joined in the pursuit by Lord Raven Royston, whose actions prompted Merula to let the butterfly loose in the first place and whose instincts lead him to believe the answer to Lady Sophia’s death is not a simple one. The pair carefully separate facts from fiction, elude the police and the murderer, and piece together information about Lady Sophia, her heir, friends and enemies as well as her household staff.

The resolution of the crime is persuasive for readers, if not, perhaps, for constabulary or a court system which, one might imagine, would need more decisive proof. The Butterfly Conspiracy nevertheless is captivating and entertaining. In addition to Merula and Raven and their complex histories, the novel introduces Raven’s enterprising, if dodgy, manservant Bowsprit and his friend, the experimenter Galileo. Each of the quartet contributes clues and interpretations, and each makes the reader yearn to learn more about them. The book is a tantalizing debut for Conroy’s Merriweather and Royston new mystery series.