Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her dear friend, Lady Kiera Darby is in need of a safe haven. Returning to her childhood home, Kiera hopes her beloved brother Trevor and the merriment of the Hogmanay Ball will distract her. But when a caretaker is murdered and a grave is disturbed at nearby Dryburgh Abbey, Kiera is once more thrust into the cold grasp of death.
While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage.
When Gage arrives, he reveals that the incident at the Abbey was not the first—some fiend is digging up old bones and holding them for ransom. Now Kiera and Gage must catch the grave robber and put the case to rest…before another victim winds up six feet under.
Lady Kiera Darby is an enigma in 1830 Scotland. She has experienced far more than the average woman of that time, including abuse and betrayal. The use of her artistic talent primarily in painting portraits, was in question by others of her social class rather than the pursuits of other ladies. The fact that she has helped solve inquiries in recent months was also against the social norms for women.
Kiera left her sister’s home in Edinburgh to return to the home where she and her brother and sister had grown up; it was exactly the place of respite she needed as she began to heal from recent events. She attended a Hogmanay Ball to please those who wanted her to get involved with her friends and neighbors again. The involvement they desired for her, however, was far different than what resulted that New Year’s Eve.
As the New Year entered, so did one of the caretakers from nearby Dryburgh Abbey. Not only had the elder caretaker been murdered while investigating the lights on the grounds on that dark winter’s night, but grave robbers had desecrated the resting place of 11th Earl of Buchan. The presence of an inquiry agent who Kiera had assisted in the past, Sebastian Gage, was requested – and her assistance to him requested and granted. For this grave robbery was not the first of it’s type…and they needed to catch those involved before the ugly crimes continued…
A Grave Matter is the third in the series of Lady Darby Mysteries. It can be read as a stand-alone novel, as the primary characters are fully integrated into the novel. This reader, however, found repeated references to occurrences in the previous books without satisfying details provided. If one had not read the first two novels, they would be so inclined with the tantalizing bits given. This mystery was complete without those details, but this reader might have felt more of a connection with the series as a whole with a bit more information.
The prose is so well-written that this reader could feel the bite of the cold winds and snow, or the crisp morning air on her face. Anna Lee Huber is an artist with words as she describes the beauty of the landscapes, architecture, and changes of scenery on their journeys so well that it as if the reader has been invited to take part in the events.
I admire Lady Darby, who is a 19th century woman with some of the same traits as a 21st century woman. She is artistically talented as well as intellectually gifted to assist Gage with inquiries he has conducted and does not apologize for making use of them. She is her own woman, and while Kiera cares how her family is thought of, she has grown less concerned with others’ opinions of her. Kiera is courageous, not a Victorian lady given to the vapors or a weak constitution. Yet just like many of her 21st century counterparts, she guards herself from others, even her sister and brother or the possibility of any potential love interest, due to past experiences.
The one thing I do miss that is present in many current American cozy mysteries is humor. While many of the events were not funny, the personalities were very strait-laced with seemingly little acquaintance with laughter.
Overall, A Grave Matter is a great mystery, one for which the historical time period has been very well researched. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the excellence of writing in British traditional mysteries, the unique historical time period, strong female leads, adventure, and potential romance. This series already has a strong following which will only grow as a result of this and future novels.