Title: A Study in Death (Lady Darby 4)
Author: Anna Lee Huber
Publication Date: 2015
Anna Lee Huber’s fourth book in the Lady Darby series takes Kiera back into the struggles of society life as she finds her way as Sebastian Gage’s fiancé. Although she has proven her worth as an investigative partner, society’s memory of her work for her late husband’s anatomical book still provides fodder for shun and gossip. Kiera is pleased to have received the commission of a portrait for Lady Drummond, a beautiful baroness with a harsh and demanding husband. Although Lord Drummond’s treatment of his wife brings back painful memories of her own late husband’s demeanor, it isn’t until Kiera arrives for a sitting to find Lady Drummond struggling in pain and sickness that she fears the worst. Lady Drummond dies with Kiera at her side; the doctor rules it an apoplexy but Kiera recognizes the possible signs of poison. Before she can convince the authorities that the death is questionable, she must first convince Gage.
Kiera and Gage struggle with finding their place in society as a future husband and wife and as investigative partners. Adding to the tension is Kiera’s sister’s difficult pregnancy, her brother-in-law Phillip’s uncharacteristic aloof demeanor, and the arrival of Lord Gage, Sebastian’s father, who has made it abundantly clear that he is not in favor of the match. To make life even more interesting, someone is renewing the unpleasantness and fabrications of Kiera’s past in society’s gossip machine. And . . . Bonnie Brock is back with news to share, but at a cost.
I absolutely love this series and fans of the series will not be disappointed in the newest installment. Huber creates meaningful, realistic characters. I especially like the circumstances that enable Kiera and Gage to investigate. Often in mystery series, the reason a character becomes involved in the investigation of a crime is either contrived or cannot last through multiple books. This series has set an outstanding foundation on which to build future adventures and challenges. I especially enjoyed how their relationship as investigators collides with their romantic and societal relationship. In 1831, a woman truly is the property of her husband and she must do as he dictates. As her fiancé, Gage struggles with trying to protect Kiera and follow the mores of societal law while still understanding and allowing her own needs of choice. I foresee this struggle to continue as their relationship grows and they finally marry, and I look forward to that dynamic.
Although the series is very character driven, the author has devised a meaningful and realistic plot. Through other factors in the character’s life that interfere with the advancement of the investigation, Huber has given a true sense of reality of the time and all the constraints of detective work in the 1831 Scotland. The story is engaging and a very enjoyable read. I was fortunate to receive an advanced reading copy of the book. My only complaint is that I now need to wait even longer for Book 5!
Who might like this book:
Two of my other favorite authors – Deanna Raybourn and Victoria Thompson – had author quotes on the cover, and I think A Study in Death and the entire Lady Darby series is a good match with these authors’ works. The story is a good mystery, but the focus on character development and the social ethics and customs of the time period keep the reader engaged and wanting to read more stories. I would recommend that new readers start with the first book in the series – The Anatomist’s Wife. A Study in Death can stand alone as an independent story, but I would hate for readers to miss out on the previous stories!