Wednesday, March 27, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: An Artless Demise by Anna Lee Huber

I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting book 7 in Anna Lee Huber’s The Lady Darby Mysteries series: An Artless Demise. This is a superb series with complex plotting, well-rounded sympathetic characters, vivid historical setting, and a lovely romance.

Lady Kiera Darby is a talented portrait painter whose first marriage was a nightmare. Wed to an older man, a prominent anatomist, she was brutally abused physically and psychologically as he forced her to view his cadaver dissections and sketch them for an anatomy book he was writing. Cadavers were hard to come by legally, so her husband purchased them from "resurrectionists" (grave robbers). When even these were difficult to find, the body snatchers sometimes resorted to murder.

Lady Darby’s husband was caught up in one of these murder scandals. Although she was innocent, she found herself ostracized by polite society. Traumatized and, thankfully, widowed, she retreated to her sister and brother-in-law’s country estate.

In book one, she becomes embroiled in a murder investigation and there she meets inquiry agent Sebastian Gage. Handsome, charming, intelligent and open-minded, Gage is the perfect match for Kiera, though it takes them a while to figure that out. They embark on a crime-solving partnership, falling in love and wedding over the course of the next few books.

Now back in London, Kiera is pregnant, rediscovered as a popular portraitist, and finding friends in the ton. This newfound calm cannot last. First, there is significant political upheaval as Tories and Whigs argue over the Reform Act, and then another "burking" incident occurs. A young boy is murdered so that his corpse can be sold for dissection. The purchasers notice that the body is too fresh and send for the law.

The boy is one of the "Italian Boys," poor young immigrants who labor in the poorest areas as virtual slaves. His murder draws attention to the plight of child poverty and enslavement. It also refocuses the spotlight on resurrectionists and reawakens the scandal surrounding Kiera.

If this weren’t enough, young lords--sons of influential men--are also starting to be murdered in fashionable parts of the city. Fear mounts that these men were targeted for burking as well. London is about to erupt in panic.

Kiera and Gage race to solve the crimes while dealing with a boatload of emotional issues of their own. Once again, their levelheaded detecting carries the plot while the ongoing development and deepening of their relationship provides an emotionally satisfying read.

Start the series with book one, The Anatomist’s Wife. The books are addictive!