Sunday, April 7, 2024

Anna Lee Huber - Mortal Arts

Scotland, 1830. Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue—in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn’t quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator—and romantic entanglement—Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.
Kiera’s old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother—and Kiera’s childhood art tutor—William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor’s plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing. Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend—and save the marriage of another…

Comment: This is the second installment in the Lady Darby Mysteries series, whose first book I've buddy read with a friend in January. Since we both liked it, we've decided to keep up with the series.

In this second installment, Kiera and her family are visiting Michael, a family friend who became engaged recently, but trouble is at the horizon because his older brother William, presumed dead for years, isn't dead nor missing and, in fact, is at home after years in an asylum. The news aren't welcomed by all, but things become more complicated when a local young woman goes missing and people start making noise about William and if he could have done something in a bout of madness. Kiera decides to stay to help investigate the case, not only because she remembers William fondly for his art lessons, but also because Sebastian Gage is there as well, although she isn't certain on why. As they team up once more, it seems all clues point to William, but can he really be that dangerous?

I was, again, quite invested in this story and in the characters. I think the author has a great talent to present the information and slowly develop it but always in a compelling way. My friend says she could guess the culprits very early on, and I had my doubts but I think I was so dedicated to savor the story that it was secondary to me to guess who the villain could be.

The plot is focused on investigating what happened to the missing girl but of course the attention is on William and why is he considered mad. The author includes an interesting note at the end about her investigation work to write the book and how many people suffered from a multitude of psychological illnesses or other issues and no one could really understand or heal them, thus making them all seem mad. William clearly suffers from what we would now consider PTSD and his experience at the asylum was a terrible one.

I actually thought the story would include a lot more content regarding this, but apart from key information to carry the plot along, that wasn't so. The story went more towards the investigation Gage and Kiera do about the missing girl and how everything must be connected or how can someone be using this - or caused this - to put the blame on William. The question is why, especially if he had been considered dead for so long, but I was actually quite interested in seeing what would happen and in my opinion, for the most part, the plot was a successful one to me.

I will have to say that some plot choices felt quite emotional here and there, for I expected a different path to one or two elements. Still, I think Kiera and Gage were, again, very competent with what they had to begin with, and their investigation felt logical and followed a believable path. I think some secondary characters were a good addition to the story and made things feel livelier. Others, I think weren't as fascinating and seemed to only be there because something had to be added.

One element which is kind of a given is how Kiera and Gag didn't get along at first but then started to become reluctant partners and when the last book ended, it seemed their paths would converge on more than just crime investigations. Depending on how one sees this, it does feel as if some kind of advance happened, they learned something else about the other and this feels like cementing something. They are only friends who clearly feel something, but it seems a good choice to develop this element slowly. I'm now eager to see what happens next.

The story ended more or less in a way one would expect, although I still wished for a slightly different choice regarding a specific element. Nevertheless, this was a good story for me, one I was enjoying and happy to keep reading and I hope the whole series remains so.
Grade: 8/10


  1. ...and another one that goes on the TBB list.

    1. Imagine you like this or the first book! It's quite a commitment... my friend and I will be reading one book a month until March next year!! I think one or two months we are skipping due to other books, but still!