Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage—a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down, as accusations and rumors swirl.
When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim.
Rating: C+ for narration; A- for content
It’s possible that I may have squealed with delight when I learned that Anna Lee Huber’s series of historical mysteries featuring Lady Keira Darby were being released as audiobooks. The books themselves (there are three so far; The Anatomist’s Wife is first in the series) have all proved to be highly entertaining, well-constructed tales featuring an engaging heroine, a gorgeous hero and a delicious slow-burning romance which has developed slowly but surely across all of the stories.
The widow of a renowned surgeon and anatomist, reclusive artist Lady Keira Darby was thrust into the limelight in the most unpleasant way following her husband’s death. A much older man, Sir Anthony Darby married Keira with the sole intention of putting her artistic skills to use by forcing her to illustrate the book on anatomy he was writing – simply because he was far too tight-fisted to pay someone to do the job.
The exposure of her involvement in the project led to Keira being branded as “unnatural” and shunned by society at large, the worst gossip painting her as an evil woman who trawled the streets looking for likely subjects for experimentation. That might seem rather a leap, but when one considers that these stories take place just a short time after the discovery of the shocking activities undertaken by Burke and Hare, and all the sensationalist stories and scandal that surrounded them, it’s perhaps not so difficult to understand the impetus behind such lurid accusations.
In the sixteen months since her husband’s death, Keira has lived quietly with her sister and brother-in-law, the Earl and Countess of Cromarty, at their remote residence of Gairloch. But when, during a house-party, one of the guests is found murdered, many of the other guests are only too willing to point the finger of suspicion at the woman dubbed “The Butcher’s Wife” and “The Sawbones’ Siren”.
With the necessary authorities several days ride away, the earl asks one of his guests, Mr Sebastian Gage, the son of a renowned military officer and inquiry agent, to begin his own investigation into the murder. Keira doesn’t like what she’s seen of the handsome and charming Mr Gage – he’s too handsome, too charming and too often surrounded by hoards of women who are only too eager to throw themselves at his feet and into his bed. But when her brother-in-law also requests her help – her knowledge of anatomy may enable her to assist in the investigation – the unlikely pair reluctantly agrees to work together until the authorities arrive.
Gage isn’t wild about the idea of having someone assist him, and Keira is hard-pressed to hide her dislike. But as the book progresses, the two begin to make discoveries about each other, as well as discoveries relating to the murder; Keira realises that there’s much more to Gage than a pretty face, and he comes to value her insight and her keen powers of observation.