Sunday, July 26, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber

Lady Kiera Darby and her husband, Sebastian Gage, are back to solve another murder in A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber. It is early January 1832, and the detective couple are at a house party held at the duke and duchess of Bowmont’s estate, celebrating Twelfth Night. The duchess is a new friend and Kiera, despite being six months pregnant, is enjoying herself, though the drinking and the traditional fun of naming a “lord and lady of misrule” is getting a bit wearying as the night wears on. When one of the duchess’s sons offers to lead a ghost tour of the catacombs, Kiera and Gage follow along. Their holiday is cut short when a newly-dead body is discovered amongst the skeletons. It is in a state of decomposition, two to four weeks by Kiera’s estimation, and cannot be positively identified. However, the best guess is that it is the body of the duchess’s son-in-law, a man that is not well liked by the family. And a wound to the skull makes it clear a murder had taken place.

Kiera and Gage are once again called upon to investigate foul play. And, to Kiera’s dismay, it appears likely the culprit is a member of the duchess’s family. Or it might be the lover of the duchess’s daughter, a man that had previously been a thorn in Kiera’s (and Gage’s) side but who was beginning to be more of a friend. (He has been in previous novels.) Kiera is disturbed by the fact that people she has come to care for are clearly lying and hiding something.

The family dynamics in the duchess’s household are complex. Kiera and Gage uncover more secrets than they care to know on the way to finding the murderer. They are helped by their loyal servants, Anderley and Bree, who are hiding a secret of their own, and by Kierra’s brother Trevor, who was also at the party.

The mystery is well-plotted and the interpersonal relationships are moving. This is a wonderful series for those who enjoy historical mystery with a strong dose of romance. Start with book one: The Anatomist’s Wife.