November 1831. After fleeing London in infamy more than two years prior, Lady Kiera Darby’s return to the city is anything but mundane, though not for the reasons she expected. A gang of body snatchers is arrested on suspicion of imitating the notorious misdeeds of Edinburgh criminals, Burke and Hare—killing people from the streets and selling their bodies to medical schools. Then Kiera’s past—a past she thought she’d finally made peace with—rises up to haunt her.
All of London is horrified by the evidence that “burkers” are, indeed, at work in their city. The terrified populace hovers on a knife’s edge, ready to take their enmity out on any likely suspect. And when Kiera receives a letter of blackmail, threatening to divulge details about her late anatomist husband’s involvement with the body snatchers and wrongfully implicate her, she begins to apprehend just how precarious her situation is. Not only for herself, but also her new husband and investigative partner, Sebastian Gage, and their unborn child.
Meanwhile, the young scion of a noble family has been found murdered a block from his home, and the man’s family wants Kiera and Gage to investigate. Is it a failed attempt by the London burkers, having left the body behind, or the crime of someone much closer to home? Someone who stalks the privileged, using the uproar over the burkers to cover his own dark deeds?
Review of An Artless Demise
The latest book in one of my favorite historical mystery series returns Lady Darby to the place where Kiera’s life first got far too interesting. London, 1831. Also, just to remind Kiera why she left the city in the first place, a rash of body snatchers is plaguing the city again (still?). A recent body, sold to anatomists, has been declared a murder victim.
I ached for Kiera, now back in the thick of things, suffering everything from condemning glances to outright accusations. With so many reminders of her life with her deceased husband, anatomist Sir Anthony, Kiera must persevere when Gage and she take on the latest Mayfair murder case. A young lord killed, with the murder made to look like a burking (body snatching). At the same time, a blackmailer is targeting Kiera. And just for good measure, a former associate of Sir Anthony plans to publish the anatomist’s journals, sure to include unsavory details about Kiera’s life with Sir Anthony.
So, not a pleasant visit to London Town for Kiera.
Always, when being reminded of Kiera’s past, I am outraged at culture and the treatment of women in 19th century England, making them possessions of their husbands with no rights of their own. As it happens, Kiera’s new husband Gage is 180 degrees from Sir Anthony and just the man Kiera loves and appreciates as he supports her and partners with her. Gage and some of Kiera’s stalwart friends are a breath of fresh air in what often feels a very burdensome environment for Kiera.
An Artless Demise is a mystery to be sure. But it also sheds light on a very dark side of London: body snatchers, filthy conditions, exploited children and society’s lack of regard for the poor.
The author does a good job of providing Kiera’s background without boring the seasoned readers of the series. Many characters from other books show up in this book. In fact, at times I struggled to recall who some of the characters were. However, like Kiera, I persevered and was rewarded with enough details to figure out who was who.
Why do I keep reading this series? Two main reasons. 1) Kiera is quite the unique heroine. Self-doubt and fear combined with such intelligence, courage, and tenderness make her special. 2) The historical setting has so many amazing details, evidencing the authors careful research. As long as Ms. Huber feels Kiera is worth writing about, I will keep reading this series.
Anna Lee Huber has done it again, giving us plenty of suspense, history and heart in An Artless Demise.
Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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