The Anatomist’s Wife (A Lady Darby Mystery)
1830. At a house party, a beautiful aristocrat is found murdered. Recently widowed Lady Kiera Darby, the hostess’s sister, investigates, though the guests believe her to be the guilty party. Why? Her husband, a famed anatomist, “forced” her to create illustrations of his dissections for a posthumously published book. Scandal and charges result, which Darby’s family quashes while she takes refuge in her sister’s Scottish castle.
The 1830 setting (a year after the execution of infamous Resurrectionist William Burke) provides impetus for the hysteria surrounding dissection, but it’s mentioned in passing rather than meaningfully exploited. Ambiance is lacking, and the characters, including the protagonist, are cardboard cut-outs: the protective older sister, catty aristocratic ladies, and good-on-the-inside rakehell love interest cum investigative partner. The novel reads as much like a romance as a mystery, and much time is spent on shrinking violet Darby’s intense physical reactions to the slightest provocation: she’s constantly blushing to her ears, her heart pounding, and her stomach incessantly souring, dropping, twisting, churning, etc. ad nauseam (literally). The dialogue is anachronistic, the prose uneven, and the ending melodramatic with an unnecessarily long epilogue and less-than-subtle foreshadowing of the next in this new series. Not recommended.