Study in Death
A Lady Darby Mystery, Book #4
By Anna Lee Huber
Author Website: Annaleehuber.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Scotland, 1831. After a tumultuous courtship complicated by three deadly inquiries, Lady Kiera Darby is thrilled to have found both an investigative partner and a fiancé in Sebastian Gage. But with her well-meaning—and very pregnant—sister planning on making their wedding the event of the season, Kiera could use a respite from the impending madness.
Commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, Kiera is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness’s eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband.
Kiera isn’t sure how to help, but when she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, things take a fatal turn. The physician called to the house and Lord Drummond appear satisfied to rule her death natural, but Kiera is convinced that poison is the real culprit.
Now, armed only with her knowledge of the macabre and her convictions, Kiera intends to discover the truth behind the baroness’s death—no matter what, or who, stands in her way… (Goodreads)
I greatly enjoy the Lady Darby mystery series and had high expectations for A Study in Death, the fourth installment. I was not disappointed for it is a fantastic read!
Kiera, Lady Darby, is a widow whose independent nature has never really fit in with the shallow Society in early nineteenth century Scotland. The scandal surrounding her first marriage and death of her husband has left her haunted and on the outskirts of society. She takes respite in her art, her family, and her investigative partner and fiancé Gage. When she is commissioned to paint Lady Drummond’s portrait, she cannot help but like the woman and, after witnessing an altercation between her and her husband, feels that they have shared experiences living with a controlling, brute of a spouse. Kiera arrives one morning for their scheduled portrait sitting to find Lady Drummond quite ill, and when Clare does indeed die, Kiera cannot help but think that hers was not a natural death and jumps to blame Lord Drummond. She only needs to prove his guilt.
She and Gage quickly set out to find the cause of Clare’s death, what motives a killer might have, and who, if not Lord Drummond, is responsible. This takes them from the drawing rooms and glittering ballrooms of Society to the shady underbelly of Old Town Edinburgh and back. Of course, Kiera’s life is threatened more than once for her efforts. To complicate matters, Gage’s father has come to town and makes no secret of his dislike of Kiera. She even suspects that her future father-in-law is responsible for the resurgence of the tittering gossip surrounding her husband’s scandal, even implying that Kiera is only investigating to satisfy her own ghoulish nature. To add to the strain of the situation, Kiera is worried about her sister’s health as she prepares for the birth of her fourth child, and her brother-in-law is uncharacteristically absent and emotionally distant even when present. The betrothed couple also has some issues that they need to work out. Kiera has been scarred by her abusive marriage, and they both have trust issues and secrets they have not shared.
I admire Kiera. She is intelligent, observant, independent for the historical period, and strong despite her past circumstances. However, she is not perfect, having a bit of a temper. Sebastian Gage is an ideal foil for her. He is charming, gallant, and moves easily about Society, but his ability to see past Kiera’s sometimes prickly surface and his loyalty to her are his traits I like most. He stands up to his father, and other members of Society, to protect his love’s honor. I appreciate that all does not go effortlessly smooth for them; they argue quite a bit but work through their problems. They make a formidable team, both in investigative matters and romance.
The mystery here is solid, and there are plenty of viable motives that are appropriate for the time period. Even though Kiera is a bit short sighted when it comes to Lord Drummond’s guilt initially, she does come around quickly to include other suspects. I suspected the killer’s identity early in the story, if only because I thought her/his actions odd from her/his first appearance. When the murderer is finally revealed, it made complete sense and brought the story to a satisfactory conclusion.
I must warn readers – there are some references to prior cases that are blatant spoilers for preceding books in the series so this might be a series best read in order to avoid any disappointment.
A Study in Death is a delightful trip back in time to beautiful Scotland. From the first page, I was transported to Kiera’s world and was entranced until the last page. I felt her compassion for Lady Drummond, her fear that her sister might not survive childbirth, her frustration with the limitations society placed on women, the hurt from Lord Gage’s nasty words, and her love for Gage. This is historical fiction at its best, and I highly recommend it to all fans of mystery.