An Artless Demise
Lady Darby Mystery #7
By Anna Lee Huber
Author’s website: annaleehuber.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
November 1831. After fleeing London in infamy more than two years prior, Lady Kiera Darby’s return to the city is anything but mundane, though not for the reasons she expected. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of imitating the notorious misdeeds of Edinburgh criminals, Burke and Hare–killing people from the streets and selling their bodies to medical schools. Then Kiera’s past–a past she thought she’d finally made peace with–rises up to haunt her.
All of London is horrified by the evidence that “burkers” are, indeed, at work in their city. The terrified populace hovers on a knife’s edge, ready to take their enmity out on any likely suspect. And when Kiera receives a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge details about her late anatomist husband’s involvement with the body snatchers and wrongfully implicate her, she begins to apprehend just how precarious her situation is. Not only for herself, but also her new husband and investigative partner, Sebastian Gage, and their unborn child.
Meanwhile, the young scion of a noble family has been found murdered a block from his home, and the man’s family wants Kiera and Gage to investigate. Is it a failed attempt by the London burkers, having left the body behind, or the crime of someone much closer to home? Someone who stalks the privileged, using the uproar over the burkers to cover his own dark deeds?
Once again, author Anna Lee Huber demonstrates her writing chops, weaving a complex, multifaceted mystery with historically accurate attention to detail and well developed, fascinating characters.
In An Artless Demise, we find newlyweds Kiera and Gage back in London after their honeymoon and expecting their first child. However, their bliss is soon put to the test when Burkers (criminals who typically suffocate victims in order to sell the bodies to medical schools and anatomists) turn up in London. This puts everyone on edge, and the Ton is quick to disparage Kiera, sometimes going as far as to blatantly accuse her of associating with the Burkers, because of the scandal Kiera faced when her anatomist husband died several years prior. Kiera and Gage soon find themselves in the midst of an attempted blackmailing scheme and murder investigation when a young nobleman is murdered near his Mayfair home.
Kiera has come a long way since the first book in the Lady Darby series, The Anatomist’s Wife, and in many ways she has come full circle in An Artless Demise. I worried for her throughout this book, but I should never have doubted her inner strength and fortitude. To this point, so much of Kiera’s thoughts and actions have been influenced by the scandal and its self-imposed guilt. Now she faces her past without flinching and emerges victorious. This feels a bit like the end of the series, but Huber has assured readers that it is not, and I cannot wait to see the future Kiera, unencumbered by her horrendous first husband Sir Anthony.
The mystery involving the deaths of more than one nobleman, who are only tenuously connected to one another, is consistently suspenseful and well paced. The entangled investigation allows for the seamless allocation of clues throughout, and I grappled with the killer’s identity for most of the book. The Burkers and Kiera and Gage’s romance and family interactions plump up the tale without being filler.
The Lady Darby series is a favorite, and An Artless Demise is a wonderful addition. Highly recommended to historical mystery fans.