The Anatomist’s Wife
A Lady Darby Mystery, Book 1
By Anna Lee Huber
Berkley, November 2012
About the Book
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.
Set in the 19th century, Anna Lee Huber’s tale of mystery follows amateur sleuth Lady Darby as she tracks down a murderer in a Scottish castle. Lady Darby is a widow with a past. When her husband died, it was discovered that Lady Darby was the artist who created the detailed anatomical drawings of cadavers her physician husband had dissected. Dissecting cadavers to gain a better understanding of anatomy was scandalous enough during that time, a time which saw a rise in the theft and sale of corpses to physicians and medical schools, but was particularly disgraceful when associated with a woman and one of rank.
Shunned and abused by society, Lady Darby escapes to her sister and brother-in-law’s Scottish castle for peace and refuge. Her first exposure to society 18 months after her husband’s death is a house party at the castle where one of the guests ends up with her throat slashed. Because of her “unnatural background”, the noble guests are anxious to see her named as the top suspect. Now Lady Darby must join forces with the arrogant investigator Sebastian Gage and use her medical knowledge to track down a killer both to clear her own name and to protect the family members who have been so loyal to her.
This book was a joy to read—the historical details surrounding oil painting, jigsaw puzzles, medical dissection, and Scottish castles made the story authentic as well as intriguing. I also loved the Austen-esque swipe at societal snobbery, which always reminds you that some things never change, no matter which century you are in. Lady Darby is a courageous, loyal, intelligent but maligned character, someone you want to root for from the very beginning.