Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Local Library
Read: February 4, 2014

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister's estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage--a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn't about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage's search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim...

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Can someone please explain why it took me so long to read Anna Lee Huber's The Anatomist's Wife? I'm trying to come up an excuse, an amazing alibi that would explain such an egregious oversight, but I've got nothing. You know, besides a tbr list that is fast approaching the three thousand mark and really, who doesn't have one of those?  
In stark contrast to the myriad of atypical heroines that plague this genre, Kiera isn't an overly progressive liberal, striving to prove herself in a male dominated society. In point of fact she is a bit of a recluse who prefers the quiet solitude of her studio to the more communal pastimes of her peers. Existing on the social fringe, she stands out from the crowd, but her personality and character are not so outlandish that she feels inappropriate to the period in which her story takes place.

The relationship between Kiera and Sebastian also held a lot of appeal. Evolving slowly, their burgeoning attraction feels authentic and natural. Present almost from the start, it grows stronger as the story progresses, but never overwhelms the narrative or takes away from the mystery at the heart of the novel. 

A master in the art of misdirection, Huber offers up just the right amount of detail, steering her readers first one way, then another, bringing them ever closer to the culprit without divulging her antagonist's identity until the final chapters of the narrative. Unfortunately, her ability to keep me guessing was undermined by a weak and overly elaborate resolution. Maybe I'm alone in this, but this is one of those instances in which I genuinely feel less would have been more. 

Reminiscent of Carol K. Carr, Deanna Raybourn, Tasha Alexander and Amanda Quick, Huber's work is both intriguing and entertaining. Ultimately less convincing than I wanted, but a promising debut just the same. 

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I sighed at the sight of his message delivered by one of the maids, suddenly reluctant to return to the uncertainty of the investigation. I was easier, safer, to remain immeresed in my art. 
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2 comments:

Holly Bush said...

This sounds very good!

Melinda Ott said...

Sounds like a great read!

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