I have been a long time fan of all Anna Lee Huber’s books, but the Lady Darby series stands out as a favorite of all her books. I will gladly clear my calendar for any upcoming Anna Lee Huber book because they are just that good! This book is the ninth in the series and I will say that I encourage readers to start this series from the beginning.
Some of the books could be read out of order but there are relationships and back stories that spread across multiple books, thus making it difficult for readers to fully appreciate the nuances of the characters and the mysteries. This book in particular harkens back to earlier books in the series and previous relationships that readers will want to be aware of.
As a side note, I loved that this book was so timely. In the book, there is a cholera pandemic and the author has commented on the fact that when she was writing this book she had no idea that we would be in an actual pandemic. It’s a fun aspect of the book and also rather ironic and timely.
Soon-to-be new parents Kiera and her husband, Sebastian Gage, have been hoping for a respite from their inquiries, but murder and mayhem have a startling way of dropping into their laps in the all-new historical mystery in this national bestselling series.
Edinburgh, Scotland. March 1832. Kiera and Gage have been eagerly awaiting their bundle of joy, but trouble has been brewing in the form of the roguish criminal, Bonnie Brock Kincaid. A new book and subsequent play features some of Kincaid’s daringly heinous exploits, although he swears he had nothing to do with it or the characters which are obvious representations of Kiera and Gage. While the scoundrel’s fury seems genuine, as well as his determined quest to uncover the real identity of the author, the Gages still hold doubts about his innocence.
A rash of crimes break out across the city, seemingly inspired by the play and book. When the publisher is found brutally murdered—in an imitation of a gruesome scene—the finger not only points to Bonnie Brock as the possible culprit, but also the Gages, who have been outspoken in their condemnation of the tale. Now, the Gages are on a hunt to unmask the killer. Between the infamy garnered by the play, the cholera outbreak still wreaking havoc throughout the city, and the impending birth of their child, they will need all the resources they can garner.
But family quarrels and the revelation of a secret Kiera has been keeping from Sebastian threaten to undermine everything they have overcome. When they find themselves in the crosshairs of the killer, trapped in the squalid underground vaults of the city, they will soon discover that the truth does not always set you free, and death can lurk around any corner. (summary from Goodreads)
There is something about this book that stood out as so much more real in the characters for me. Across the series, the author does a great job developing Gage and Kiera as well as the secondary characters. She takes time developing their flaws, strengths, and challenges within their own selves as well as their relationships. At this point in the series the characters feel like old friends and now that we are past the ‘honeymoon phase’ of the books, we are knee deep in their lives and in this book I really felt that! For example, Kiera has been keeping a big secret from Gage and watching her struggle with how and if she should share it felt so real and emotional. I could feel her internal struggle so much! I loved that about this book! Gage’s response when the secret comes out felt legitimate and justified in comparison. I simply loved how real the characters have become over the books.
Thy mystery was as always well done. I expect nothing less than a suspenseful, intelligent and thought-out mystery from Huber regardless of what series she is writing. This mystery was completely up to snuff. I enjoyed trying to puzzle things out as well as decipher motives. In this one, while the mystery plays a large part in this book, for me it wasn’t really the focus. There is a lot of inter character relationship things going on which made it feel different than some of the other books in the series. Things are going on with Kiera and Gage, Bree and Anderley, Kiera and her sister, Gage/Kiera and Bonnie Brock, and Gage and Maclean. So there are a lot of characters who are interacting and have things to workout that don’t really have anything to do with the murder itself—or at least directly. I love seeing these established characters grow in this book and see how those relationships evolve and change with the series. The author has a clear intuition when it comes to her characters and that shined in this book.
But of course this is a murder mystery right? What’s a murder mystery without an actual murder? This book does have a strong murder mystery and as I mentioned I loved solving it right along with my favorite characters but for me, the heart of this book was the relationships and growth that the characters are undergoing on every page. Though I think one of the things that I didn’t really love about this one was the struggles that Kiera and her sister, Alana, were going through. I was so annoyed with Alana and even in the end, I felt that she was not justified in her response to her sister’s struggles. The other thing that readers should be aware of is this book references a lot of material from a novelle. I know some readers aren’t big fans of novellas but in this case you will want to read the novella prior to this. I didn’t read the novella first and while I wasn’t lost in the story, when I did go on to read the novella, I was like ‘ohhhhhh that’s how that happened!’ so I think reading that first would have helped me! Overall though, this was a great installment and the next book can’t come soon enough!
Book Info and Rating
Format384 pages, Paperback
PublishedApril 6, 2021 by Berkley
ISBN9780593198445 (ISBN10: 0593198441)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: historical fiction, mystery