Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: The Anatomist's Wife

Author: Anna Lee Huber
Publication Date: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Series: Lady Darby Mystery # 1

Scotland, 1830. 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 her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.

Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy 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 both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim...
“Alana had asked me once why I liked the library loft so much, but I hadn’t been able to explain it to her. Perhaps there was some sense of peace being so high above it all, with the saint on the ceiling my closest neighbor. All I knew was that I always felt better, that my thoughts were always clearer, when I was curled up in the little space below the eaves.” – Paperback Copy pg. 7

“I sighed, looking up at the walls to study the tapestries woven with ancient Highland battle scenes in rich greens, browns, and reds. The cloth was mottled and faded with the dust and the patina of time, but it still spoke of the weaver’s talent. When I first came here, still raw from the inquiries after my husband’s death, I tried painting a landscape to match. Philip hung it over the fireplace, delighted with the depiction of his Highland home, even though I knew it wasn’t representative on my best work. The portrait of Alana hanging in the front parlor and the wedding portrait in their bedchamber were far more skillfully wrought. People captured my eye, my brush – not forests or rivers or castles. And if the person somehow managed to touch my heart, it was all the better – like my sister’s portrait, or the study I made our nursery main, Betsy, or the sketch of Frederick Oliver.” – Paperback Copy pg. 13

“Besides, it didn’t matter what Gage believed. I knew that I was innocent, and so did my sister and brother-in-law. All I could do was focus on what I had set out to do in the first place – protect my sister and her family by finding the real killer – and in the process, prove my innocence, perhaps once and for all.” – Paperback Copy pg. 55

“Several hours in my studio did much to soothe my tattered nerves worn raw by the events of the last sixteen hours. The familiar roughness of the charcoal in my hand as I sketched the outline of a new portrait comforted me. Its musk of earth and ashes permeated the air, clearing away the lingering memory of blood and death. I lost myself in the sweep of lines, forgetting place and time.” – Paperback Copy pg. 85

Any book that leads with a shrieking scream from the first page is sure to be a keeper. At least this reigns true for Anna Lee Huber’s, The Anatomist’s Wife. On the first page we learn that as the readers we are attending a huge social party at one of Scotland’s magnificent Highland estates, and that there has been a brutal and vicious murder. Lady Godwin has just been found in a rather nasty situation really: dead. Lady Kiera Darby was one of the first on the scene, and our wonderful heroine, so of course everyone was quick to cast the blame on her. Kiera immediately realizes that she must do whatever it takes to clear her name and prove her innocence.

Kiera Darby has suffered an ill lot as of late. Her husband has just recently passed and she cannot avoid the suspicious glances of those who suspect her as his murderer. Not to mention the fact that Lord Darby only married her for her artistic abilities, hoping they would only advance his career as an anatomist and a surgeon. Yep, you guessed it; Kiera sketches the inside of the deceased bodies that her husband studies. Now Kiera, looking for solitude and a sense of peace, is spending some time at her sister and brother-in-law’s Highland estate, when this woman, Lady Godwin, turns up murdered. Kiera just can’t catch a break. But, having her varied and advanced background, the men of the manor immediately pull her on board to help analyze the dead body. What a real trooper she was!

I love mystery books, but I hardly ever find one quite like this. Kiera is such an intelligent heroine and just following her thought processes are enough to keep any reader involved in this novel. What I also loved about the mystery solving process within this book is that Kiera often outsmarts all the men that she is working with. She is just so smart and confident when she speaks and dives deeper into Lady Godwin’s murder. Nothing holds her back and she is definitely a heroine worth reading. Sometimes I often forgot that Kiera was in the scene, until she comes in with the perfect line or accusation relating to the murder. Her remarks are always well thought out and take you by surprise. Kiera’s lines were usually the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, so that should tell you how powerful they are. She is a powerful artist and I enjoyed moments when you could really see her artistic nature surface. She was so passionate about her art and I love seeing passions within characters because they care about things too, ya know!

At times I thought that this book could easily turn dark and creepy. I mean when the murder itself was being described I could feel chills running up my spine, and I was wondering just how dark and deep we were going to get. I think that the setting helped set the mood a lot as well. We are in Scotland around 1830 and in a huge castle that has tons of rooms and some of them are dank, dark, and eerie. Not to mention it is isolated! I just had it all envisioned and Anna does such a wonderful job of connecting you to the story that I could feel myself walking alongside Kiera as she tried to prove her innocence. This was a truly remarkable mystery story that is unlike any other, and I am so happy to start a brand new series from a wonderful debut author!!

***Thank you to the publishers at Berkley Trade for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***

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