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Mortal Arts (A Lady Darby Mystery) by Anna Lee Huber
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425253786
Date: 03 September 2013 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Lady Darby is again entangled in a confusing mystery involving supposedly a mad lord, a young girl, and her friend, the ever elusive Sebastian Gage. Determined to prove Lord William, an old friend innocent of murder, she delves into murky waters to the dismay of her friends and relatives and especially to Gage. Such activities are considered unfit for a Victorian lady, especially one who has only recently overcome a threatened trial for unnatural tendencies.

Huberís debut novel, The Anatomist's Wife, revealed Kiera, Lady Darby's story and her husband's abuse. A talented artist, she was forced to provide the illustrations for his acclaimed book on anatomy and to participate in dissections. She has only recently re-emerged into society.

Long thought dead, Lord William was imprisoned by his father, Lord Delmay, in a nearby insane asylum run by a discredited doctor. William served in the war on the Continent and returned a shattered man who drew disturbing pictures of the war. The doctor consulted by his father insisted William be given to his care in his asylum, Larkspur Retreat.

After Lord Delmay's death, his son Michael discovers what happened to his brother and forces the doctor to release him. William is in a bad way and suffers periods of withdrawal. Emaciated and troubled, he draws images even more disturbing than his war pictures. He is watched and kept within the Delmay residence.

When a young woman disappears, suspicion falls on William. Kiera tries to help him, but Gage and others want her to leave William alone, fearing he might harm her. She persists and also begins to investigate the young woman's death.

Gage remains as enigmatic as always. At times, he may be as frustrating to the reader as he is to Kiera, but generally, the readers will recognize his true feelings for her even if she does not.

Mortal Arts provides a good read for those who like the Victorian period. Other writers, Tasha Alexander and Elizabeth Peters, have used women of the Victorian age in mystery novels While Emma Jean Holloway (A Study in Silks) does the same in steampunk novels.

Huber's writing resembles Victorian novels with rich descriptions and language, and she only occasionally uses more modern phrases. She has researched the period and the places and provides added information in a Historical Note. The slow pace throughout the novel may be tiresome to some readers, but her thrilling climaxes deliver plenty of action and danger for Kiera. This is her second Lady Darby mystery, following The Anatomist's Wife.

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