A Lady Darby Mystery, Book 3 – A Grave Matter, by Anna Lee Huber
While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage. http://www.annaleehuber.com/books.php
This story opens soon after the death of a dear friend and we see our protagonist back in her childhood home trying to put the pieces of her life together. Because Anna Lee Huber is a wonderful storyteller, there’s no time to sit back and wait for things to happen. A grave robbery, a murder, and the return of the enigmatic Sebastian Gage, swirl us back into history and an enticing romance between Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage.
Anna Lee Huber’s skillful attention to tone and atmosphere, and sly placement of clues in dialogue add to the cumulative effect of taking you into the time, place, and intentions of the characters. The author’s well-formulated sentences, tactile descriptions, and adept narration bring to life the dimly lit alleys and colorful social engagements of the time. In addition to the beautiful atmosphere and dark plot line, Kiera is showing us more of who she is. With or without puffy sleeves, this Lady is funny (her internal thoughts are just an oh-so-proper hoot). Sebastian Gage, while still rather mysterious, is opening up to Kiera and to us as well. Kiera’s brother, Trevor, also has growth in this story, and surrounding characters are full, interesting, and worth getting to know.
I had this book on my night table for quite a while only because I knew that getting into it would be such a treat, and I wanted to devote a few uninterrupted nights to slowly savor the delicious descriptions and suspenseful moments. If you have not yet read any of Huber’s books, start at the first one, The Anatomist’s Wife, and make your way through Mortal Arts then A Grave Matter, and finally A Study in Death. Not just for the pleasure of getting to know the initially tarnished and socially rejected Kiera, but to see her grow and overcome the obstacles of her time, and to be completely wrapped up in the beauty of Scotland and its people. And its crime.
Mortal Arts is Anna Lee Huber’s second in the Lady Darby Historical Mystery series published by Berkley Prime Crime, September 2013. If you have not read the first in this new series, The Anatomist’s Wife, run out and get a copy, download a copy, whatever you have to do, and then get ready for Mortal Arts. Find a quiet place, get a glass of wine or fresh brewed coffee or tea, and let the Victorian atmosphere and careful narration take you away to another time and share with you the sounds and scents that will overtake you in this beautifully written tale. Lady Kiera Darby, our protagonist, is a strong woman, so likeable, so smart, and so very much her own person. While there are several themes at play, Ms. Huber’s neatly constructed plot never wavers from its linear progression. The central mystery is cushioned in family betrayal, PTSD issues, and the treatment of the mentally ill.
There are moments of descriptive brilliance here, and the gentle touches to surrounding characters enhance your visit to Lady Darby’s world. In one scene, Lady Darby and Gage enter a crude stone building occupied by Mrs. McCray. When she brings out her finest tea china, that simple act provides insight into this peripheral villager. And in another, Lady Darby erupts into a defensive tirade and shocks the guests in the room. As each react to the outburst, we get a clearer view behind their proper façades. This story has an added romantic element that is necessary to the growth of Lady Darby but does not overshadow the core that is the mystery. I enjoyed the slow build of the relationship between Lady Darby and Gage. He does confuse me a bit. But he also confuses Lady Darby. Will we learn more about his motives in book three? By the end of the tale, Lady Darby has certainly evolved and several of those bricks in her emotional wall have crumbled. I truly enjoyed every page, every sentence. This author delivers a carefully constructed, comfortably enveloping story with brutal lies to uncover and shocking secrets to reveal. But don’t get too caught up in soft brocade, feathery breezes or the breathtaking Scottish landscape. There is, after all, a murder to solve.
The First Lady Darby Mystery – – The Anatomist’s Wife: Scotland, 1830. A widow whose husband used her artistic talents for his own macabre purposes. From the opening scream to the hushed ending, Anna Lee Huber’s The Anatomist’s Wife is a tight, historical mystery with skillful undertones of isolation, inequality, jealousy, and rules of society. Amid rustles of skirts and stirring of tea, clues are planted, lies are exposed, false leads send us along diverted trails, and characters are stripped of their proper Victorian façades. Here we see the polite drawing room tea, forced manners, and undercurrents of tension and injustice. One can serve tea while ruining a reputation at the same time. Thankfully, this book did not dwell on the cat and mouse games of London Seasons and scandalous liaisons. Okay there was scandal. But an unwarranted scandal cast upon Lady Darby, our protagonist. I loved the premise of setting this following the Resurrectionist Era of Burke and Hare and entangling Lady Darby in the bloody aftermath.
Aristotle would be delighted at Ms. Huber’s use of story elements. The plot was tight, the characters dimensional with clear goals, and even the secondary characters left us with tidbits of their lives. The themes of isolation, guilt, revenge and family devotion in this story are relevant today. While I did not find that the language rang true to the locale, the clean use of grammar and conversation style between characters clearly indicated the Victorian Era. Finally, the setting was in my favorite place. However, my Scottish obsession was not, at first, satisfied, as I wanted to be transported right away to the textures, buildings, landscapes and surrounding area of the Highlands. Yet as the plot thickened and lies were revealed, I was soon in the middle of lush chambers and chilly stairways, and then an unstable boat rocking above the dark depths of a loch.
The author’s intent for a good mystery is intelligently carried out with a tantalizing dash of romance slowly evolving and emerging through the self-imposed walls of Lady Darby’s isolation. Yes, I would have liked to see more sparks between Sebastian Gage and Lady Darby, but it would not ring true for this story. It would not align with Darby’s long self-exile and the gentle evolution of her return into society. Now the ending was the cleverest of all. Yes, it wrapped up with a credible resolution. Better than that, it left me very anxious to read the next book. Smart. See for yourself. Buy the book, a flavorful tea, and curl up under a good reading light. I bet you will not stop until the last page.