Mortal Arts (Lady Darby Mysteries) Paperback – 3 Sep 2013
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Praise for Anna Lee Huber and "The Anatomist's Wife"
"Lady Darby is an engaging new sleuth to follow."--Julia Spencer-Fleming, "New York Times" bestselling author
"A riveting debut."--Deanna Raybourn, "New York Times" bestselling author
"An unusual and romantic heroine."--Judith Rock, author of "A Plague of Lies"
"A fast-paced, atmospheric, and chilling debut featuring a clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection." --Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author of "India Black and the Shadows of Anarchy"
"Huber's protagonist is complex and likable and the well-plotted mystery is filled with fascinating secondary characters...You'll be engaged right to the end."--"RT Book Reviews"
"Huber's debut...reads like a cross between a gothic novel and a mystery with a decidedly unusual heroine."--"Kirkus Reviews"
About the Author
ANNA LEE HUBER is a summa cum laude graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in music and minored in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana with her family and is hard at work on the next novel in the Lady Darby Mysteries.
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Top Customer Reviews
Phraseology. And hot & cold running water and a Beth with proper waste disposal in a Scottish manor at that time?
If you can avoid being irritated or distracted by some obvious flaws and the even present inaccurate use of the English then it's an interesting novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
Our heroine scowls and frowns throughout. Servants argue and refuse to follow orders. Really? Predictable story - absolutely. Unlikeable heroine - for sure.
The Anatomist Wife had set up a decent series and one expects the writing to improve with practice. Not so here. Where were her editors? And if they were there, who are these people to allow the author to sink her series in redundant words and phrases?
So here are the highlights (warning: spoilers)
- I like that Lady Darby is an honest and trustworthy woman who doesn't play games. This is refreshing in a world full of books about women who withhold vital info and create even more confusion until the "big reveal" at the end of the book where everyone forgives them and understands why they didn't just spit it out.
-Lady Darby and Gage. I liked these two and their interaction. Gage is an intriguing character and I felt he and Lady Darby's relationship was genuine and not contrived to make the book have a "romance". However, there are issues with the relationship as discussed below.
- The plot. The idea of an asylum and all it's horrors lent an air of mystery and intrigue into the story line that I wanted to find out what happened.
-Lady Darby is coming into her own person after the horrors she endured from her husband and the accusations she was fearful of after his death. However, some of her motives, as previously stated, didn't seem to make sense. She is a complex woman trying to figure out what exactly her place is and fearful of moving into the world that betrayed her but she is also strong and strong willed. I liked that about her. However, there were just some things that seemed a bit forced. Her concern for William, the "brother who was thought dead but was really missing because he was in an asylum for 10 years" being one of them. She did not think or dwell on William at all until they reached the Dalmay estate. She thought back on her childhood with the Dalmay children but the thoughts she had of William did not really have enough depth or emotion to justify how she reacted once she found he was alive. She didn't really seem too concerned he was dead or missing before she found he was alive and well (maybe not well but alive) and living on the estate. Then she was obsessed by him. And everyone around her seem to look to her as some kind of "William whisperer" -- a friend that he would listen to when he wouldn't listen to anyone else. Their previous relationship didn't seem to justify that kind of faith or belief.
- Everyone is looking at people funny. I appreciate the idea that Lady Darby is very observant and can read emotions from people's faces. However, everyone seems to be looking at each other funny and she observes it and then we wait for the "big reveal" as to why they are "confused but surprised" or "concerned but triumphant" or other confusing combinations of emotional facial energy.
-Lady Darby and Gage. This is a sword that goes two ways. I liked their relationship but there are elements of Gage that I would like to see more fleshed out. He is almost too mysterious. In not a good way. His lack of information sometimes just seems petty. Rather than being mysterious he just seems distant and uncaring. Give a girl something to work with. He does cough up some info late in the book, but again it seems forced rather than a natural outpouring of a growing relationship. I am all for mystery in a man but at some point it can just seem silly.
- Logic and motive. I just didn't understand some leaps in logic. Why would people think William had anything to do with a woman from the village disappearing? It was explained but I didn't really believe it. It was too vaguely connected and sudden. I don't know why info was withheld by people who wanted help. And why would a young woman keep information from everyone about William knowing the missing woman when she had been missing for days. Suddenly about 3 days into her being missing, she starts getting concerned and worried. Why didn't she reveal it earlier? She had opportunity. Why did she become concerned at that moment and not earlier? Some things seemed to be introduced just to keep the mystery and tension alive and they seemed forced. Too many people suddenly know something or was worried about something when they weren't worried before.
-Some characters were just not well fleshed out or were just made into the typical cookie cutter character. Such as the overactive constable who is an idiot and a bully. Yep, every mystery has to have one.
I can be pretty stubborn about suspending disbelief but I had a hard time in this book. There was too many times I was kind of irritated by an uneasy feeling that something was missing and I couldn't quite figure out what.
I would recommend this book if you read the first book. I think that, while it was not as strong as the first, it pushes the story of Lady Darby along and it does have some likeable elements that makes it a good distraction from life but don't expect a robust mystery. It seems kind of obvious where all this is leading and it is more about the action than the mystery in the end. I enjoyed the first mystery and look forward to the next so it isn't all bad. I would recommend Lady Julia Grey mysteries if you are looking for a gap to fill your life before the next book comes out.