Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber

Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber Purchase:

    Add a missing girl, a secret agenda, quite a bit of despair and doubt, several (unexpected) villains and heartbreaking personal demons and you’re in for a treat.

    After her foray into murder investigation, Lady Kiera Darby must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn’t quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator (and romantic entanglement) Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.

    Kiera’s old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother, William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing.

    Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend.

    Review by Esther Schindler:

    Anna Lee Huber
    Anna Lee Huber

    I really enjoyed the first Lady Darby novel, The Anatomist’s Wife, which introduced us to Kiera — a talented artist who (in that first book) was trying to get a grip on her life after scandal. She successfully did so, managing to be both independent and true to her time (for Scotland circa 1830). It was so enjoyable that I pre-ordered this second in the series — and I am very glad I did.

    In this story, Kiera is moving to Edinburgh because her pregnant sister needs medical attention. But the family gets waylaid by a special request from an old family friend — and the mysterious (read: love interest) Sebastian Gage is also in residence.

    The mystery is a missing woman and the unsettled mental state of the friend’s elder brother, who spent 6 months as Kiera’s art tutor when she was 15. Kiera remembers Will’s difficulties in coping with life after the battle of Waterloo and thought he had disappeared. But worse: He spent most of the last decade locked in an insane asylum, and now, after his release, nobody trusts him. Today we’d call it PTSD; back then they called it cowardice and madness.

    That sounds like a major downer, but it really isn’t. This is really good character-driven fiction whose people are completely plausible — from the wonderful sisterly loving snappishness to Kiera’s frustration with the obnoxious relative to the societal rules that keep Kiera from just asking things outright. And did I mention it has a good love story?

    I dove into this novel as soon as I got it, and hardly put it down until I finished. You’ll want to read the earlier book first, but that’s no hardship.

    Review by Charlotte:

    Mortal Arts has been on my list of highly anticipated releases ever since I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, The Anatomist’s Wife. I am not disappointed! Mrs. Huber delivers another well developed mystery with a beautifully crafted romantic element. Kiera is a fascinating heroine and astute narrator, surrounded by an equally wonderful support cast in a well researched historical setting.

    The plot follows Kiera and Gage in their attempt to help Kiera’s former art tutor, who suffers from battle fatigue and the subsequent horrors of 19th century psychiatric care. Add a missing girl, a secret agenda, quite a bit of despair and doubt, several (unexpected) villains and heartbreaking personal demons and you’re in for a treat.

    As an amateur art student who recently finished a course on ‘Art and War’ I especially loved the (oblique) references to the artwork by Francisco Goya.

    I read a lot of historical mysteries and sleuth series and most of them are an enjoyable read, but nothing exceptional. The Lady Darby Mystery series, however, is one of the few excellent series out there, on par with Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series and C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr series. If you love those, you will certainly love Lady Darby.