Scotland, 1830. The recently widowed Lady Kiera Darby has taken refuge with her sister and brother-in-law at their estate. There she finds solace in her painting and tries to put the past behind her. However when her family hosts a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera finds herself unable to hide. Once more she must face the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her deceased husband – an anatomist who used her artistic talents for his own macabre reasons.
When Lady Godwin, one of the guests is murdered, Kiera is asked to join inquiry agent Sebastian Gage and use her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the investigation. Accusations and rumors begin to fly, most of them centered on Kiera. Wanting nothing more than to leave the past behind, she finds herself working with Gage not only to prove her own innocence but to find the real murderer as well.
The Anatomist’s Wife is a version of one of my favorite mysteries – the locked room version. In this version though, a murder is committed and someone at the estate is the culprit. It is one of the guests? One of the staff? Or perhaps the host or hostess themselves? As we read we learn that nearly every guest has a reason for wanting Lady Godwin dead. Whether out of jealousy or out of spite, the reasons are numerous. So when we finally do reach the climax and discover who did it, the reasoning is believable if reprehensible.
The characters, from our two main protagonists Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage, to the lesser unnamed characters were all written well. Of course the main two have the most devoted to them but even with those who are mentioned only briefly we are given a type of closure to their story. Written in first person from the point of view of Lady Darby, the action is swift. We are able to put the pieces of the puzzle together along with her as each clue is uncovered. And when she manages to finally figure out the culprit it is a surprise to all involved.
Along with the main mystery plot line, there was a smaller secondary romantic plot between Lady Darby and Mr. Gage. It was well played out in that it never at any time out shone the original mystery. What I especially liked though was how the romantic plot line DIDN’T have a happy ending. While they definitely did develop feelings for one another, the two parted at the end of the book. And while it is hinted that they will meet again in the near future, their parting keeps the story that much more realistic.
All in all, I liked this book. I’m sure the sequel(s) are out by now and I’ll be keeping an eye out for them.