The Anatomist's Wife (Berkley Prime Crime, $15.00) is a love story masquerading as a historical crime novel - and it's a good one!
Lady Kiera Darby came to the Gairloch estate in an attempt to hide from London's nobility. Her sister, the countess of Gairloch, welcomed her with open arms following the death -- and resulting mess -- of Kiera's husband, a respected anatomist living in the shadow of the great Burke and Hare scandal.
A painter by trade, Kiera takes refuge in Scotland and removes herself from the swirling world of manners and hateful gossip that plagues her.
An ancient castle beside a turbulent Scotch loch is ideal for a creepy murder mystery. The late Georgian period comes alive on the pages of this fast-paced thriller, as the reader is introduced to a party of selfish socialites visiting Gairloch. Each is hell-bent on getting their own way and climbing into the upper echelons of the ton, acquaintances be damned.
When the beautiful Lady Godwin's mutilated body is discovered in the gardens after dinner, it is clear that a cold-hearted murder walks among them - but who?
The isolated estate is set to lock-down for days, awaiting the arrival of the proper authorities. In the interim, the charming (and stubborn) Sebastian Gage, son of a well-respected investigator, attempts to unravel the mystery on his own terms.
A misunderstood artist with a dark past, the innocent Kiera is immediately suspected as Lady Godwin's vicious murderer. With all signs pointing to her guilt, the young Lady Darby must find a way to convince her family and their anxious guests that she is not the murderer. Independent to a fault, she must learn to work alongside Mr. Gage... and somehow convince him that she has been framed.With all bets against her, Kiera must solve the mystery before the murder can silence her forever.
Many tales of love and loss are woven into the plot of this quick read. Each character strives to find their own sort of happiness, whether that be realized through true love or the beds of their friends' wives and husbands. Unrequited love, unfulfilled dreams and a hunger for something more are what drive Huber's characters to their blessed and bitter ends.
No historical thriller is complete without a bit of romance. Huber's well-crafted characters are at times exasperating, but endearing. As this novel came to an end I slowed my reading, hoping to stretch and savor the last few pages. I didn't want to say goodbye to clever Kiera and the handsome Mr. Gage.
Anna Lee Huber must be awfully proud of her first novel. It is saturated with well-researched historical tidbits, providing a feeling of authenticity often difficult to achieve in this genre. A stellar debut, and I look forward to the next installment of her promising "Lady Darby" mystery series.
Get this novel from your local, independent bookseller!
The Anatomist's Wife: A Lady Darby Mystery
will be released on November 6, 2012.
Audrey Barton has been regularly reviewing fiction and non fiction since 2009.
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