Source: Paperback, Published November 6, 2012 by Berkley Trade
Verdict: Very Good
Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.
Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage–a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…
I am very lucky to have Mr. Fab in my life. Not only is he awesome, but he sometimes finds really cool picks for me. The finding of The Anatomist’s Wife happened to be one of those times. We were in a bookstore- this was during my reading funk- and he went off on a mission. ‘I will find you something great. A little history, a little mystery’. But could it be done? Well, as Mr. Fab proved, it could be done.
Mix Jane Austen’s Liz and Darcy with a dash of Gail Carriger (minus the steampunk), a heap of Gosford Park and slightly more dastardliness and you have The Anatomist’s Wife.
One of the story elements I found most intriguing is that of Kiera’s involvement with her deceased-husband’s work: Lady Darby, a skilled artist, was essentially sold off to a suitor to be wed. However, Kiera’s father- who should have investigated or have known better- did not know that the Sir Anthony, an anatomist, wanted to exploit Kiera for her art skills. That is, to make her sketch human anatomy from (sometimes stolen) corpses, for his professional gain.
Now a widow and living with her protective sister Alana in Scotland, Kiera still deals with the fallout of how her macabre job came to public light. Treated and viewed by most in her circles as unnatural and dangerous, Lady Darby is thought to be the culprit after one of her sister’s house guests is found murdered in a sadistic manner. When Lady Darby is asked by her brother-in-law to help with the investigation, she finds herself facing down many demons all the while uncovering some disturbing truths about privileged society.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this debut mystery! The combination of the novel’s setting, time period, and atypical heroine make for absorbing reading. I found Kiera to be a very intriguing protagonist, with an as yet to be fully explored depth. As for Gage? I think that readers who enjoy characters like Mr. Darcy might take to him! While there is some predictability in the possible Lady Darby-Mr. Gage relationship, the mystery itself unfolds in surprising ways.
Note: This review, written by me, originally appeared on Fabbity Fab Book Reviews. Minor edits have been made.