A Stroke of Malice
Lady Darby Mystery #8
By Anna Lee Huber
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Scotland 1832. After enjoying a delightful holiday with her family, Lady Kiera Darby is looking forward to finishing her new friend, the Duchess of Bowmont’s portrait, as well as attending the duchess’ annual Twelfth Night party. Though she normally avoids such fashionable events, Kiera trusts the attention will not be focused on her, but rather her notorious hostess and her family. But upon their arrival at the opulent Scottish estate, Kiera and her husband and fellow investigative partner, Sebastian Gage, swiftly deduce that all is not merry in the duke’s household. The family appears to be under a great strain, and someone seems determined to cause mayhem among the guests with a series of forged notes.
However, matters swiftly turn from irksome to downright deadly when the merrymakers stumble upon a decomposing body in the castle’s crypt. This corpse is certainly no laughing matter, especially when it is identified as the duchess’ son-in-law, the Earl of Helmsdale, who had purportedly traveled to Paris more than a month earlier. It is evident the man met with foul play, and Kiera and Gage step in to investigate, at the duchess’ insistence. Kiera and Gage must swiftly reexamine the facts, for a ruthless murderer walks among them and may well be a member of the duchess’ own family. Kiera soon discovers just how deep the killer is willing to dig to keep their secrets from ever seeing the light of day. (Goodreads)
A Stroke of Malice, the stunning eighth entry in the Lady Darby mystery series, is full of marvelous characters, family drama, a stellar mystery to solve, and a perfect gothic-like setting.
The Duchess of Bowmont, who has commissioned a portrait painted by Kiera, invites Kiera and Gage to her annual Twelfth Night celebration, but under the celebratory façade, the infamous family seems tense. Things go from merry to mayhem when a body is discovered in the depths of the castle. Too decomposed to readily identify, several family members believe the deceased to be the duchess’s son-in-law, but the Duchess tasks the investigative pair to find the truth even though no one is completely forthcoming or helpful. Kiera and Gage must weed through secrets, lies, and personal danger to expose a killer.
The Lady Darby series, always delightful, gets better and better with each new installment, and A Stroke of Malice does not disappoint. Author Huber does a fabulous job drawing readers into the story from the first page. Always eloquent and stylish, the writing is superbly descriptive, ripe with details without becoming tedious. I felt like I was right in the middle of the action, my senses transported to nineteenth century Scotland.
The victim’s identity and the killer’s motive present quite the puzzle to figure out, and I enjoyed investigating alongside Kiera, Gage, and their maid and valet. This time around even Kiera’s brother Trevor puts on his sleuthing cap. Considering the duchess’s family is notorious for its scandals, the secrets they desperately try to keep concealed make Kiera and Gage’s job all the more difficult. There is also an amazing revelation unrelated to the mystery that I cannot wait to see how it plays out in future books.
Huber excels at drawing wonderful, complex characters. Kiera is admirable, stronger than she realizes (though I think she is recognizing her fortitude more), smart, and relatable. She is ahead of her time, as is her relationship with Gage, but I would not change a thing. Gage is quite progressive, and his obvious respect and care for Kiera is endearing and notable. Handsome, intelligent, grounded, and noble – he is one of my favorite characters in fiction.
A Stroke of Malice is sure to be one of my favorite books of the year. Highly recommend!