Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review: Mortal Arts

Anna Lee Huber
Mortal Arts (A Lady Darby Mystery, Book 2)
By Anna Lee Huber
Berkley, September 2013

About the Book

Scotland, 1830. Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue—in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn’t quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator—and romantic entanglement—Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.

Kiera’s old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother—and Kiera’s childhood art tutor—William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor’s plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing. Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend—and save the marriage of another.

My Review

Mortal Arts is the second book in the Lady Darby Mystery series by Anna Lee Huber. The novel continues Lady Keira Darby’s story as she ventures to Edinburgh and encounters old family friends, the Dalmays. But a secret looms over the Dalmay household, one that threatens the engagement of the younger brother Michael. It was well known that the oldest son, William, once Keira’s art tutor, suffered “battle fatigue” upon his return from war. Mentally unstable and suffering from violent nightmares, the man suddenly disappears, leaving his own siblings searching for him in vain.

But William, Lord Dalmay, is  not dead, in fact he is alive and well and turns up back in the Dalmay household after ten years in an insane asylum, an extremely inconvenient fact for Michael’s prospective in-laws who covet the baronetcy for their daughter. More haunted than ever following his stay in the asylum, Will remains locked in the attic, confused and erratic, but his friends and family, including Keira, fear for his health and safety, particularly after hearing that the ill man occasionally escapes the confines of the house and that a local girl has reportedly gone missing.

Keira, who wants nothing but to believe the best of her old friend, witnesses Will’s unpredictable behavior, disturbed paintings, and violent tendencies. After getting only a taste of what Will experienced while confined in the asylum, Keira fears that Will may in fact be involved in the girl’s disappearance and knows that if he is not, it will take a lot to prove his innocence. Assisted by her romantic interest Sebastian Gage, Keira tries to get to the bottom of the mystery, to find the lost girl and to prove Will’s innocence once and for all.

Hampered by a self-important constable and people prepared to hang Will before the evidence is collected, Keira is the only chance Will has left. Against the backdrop of murder and intrigue, Keira wrestles with her feelings for the enigmatic Gage, a handsome and loyal man, who stays aloof when it comes to declaring his feelings for her.

An excellent commentary on the societal prejudice against and clinical mishandling of the mentally ill, particularly soldiers returning from war with PTSD, Huber provides a gripping mystery, one that tests Keira’s abilities and loyalties. Keira endures as an immensely likable lead characterstrong, loyal, persistent, passionate, and yet flawed and haunted by her own demons, she remains a worthy heroine.