Book Review | “A Study in Death” (#LadyDarby, No.4) by Anna Lee Huber

Posted Sunday, 10 July, 2016 by jorielov , , , , 1 Comment

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Borrowed Book By: My local library has always been quite keenly astute on forthcoming releases by authors whose books wink at me from the card catalogue, whenever I am seeking a new read within a genre I happen to have a penchant attachment. Cosy mysteries have always been knitted into my heart, and although I honestly cannot remember exactly if the library purchased the Lady Darby book series off a request of mine OR if they were requested by another patron, all I can simply say is that I felt immeasurably blessed that the first two novels of the Lady Darby mysteries were at my library! I did make enquiries on behalf of this series to be continued to be added to the library as forthcoming titles release henceforth forward!

As this series is a part of a personal quest to read Serial Fiction Library Finds, I was not compensated for this review nor was I obliged to share my thoughts on behalf of this novel or the Lady Darby Mysteries.

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On how we left Lady Darby & Mr Gage in A Grave Matter:

From the very beginning, I was smitten with the idea of Lady Darby and Mr Gage as a true partnership of intellectual minds who were both naturally inclined to sleuth. Watching them grown closer together with each new story I was reading, was a happiness without measure, as it truly knitted together so very organically from how Huber approached disclosing their connective relationship. Circumstances would thrust them together out of dire situations where lives were at risk and mysteries needed to become resolved post haste.

This was one of my favourites of the series, simply because Huber allowed us a proper pause from the cardinal focus of sleuthing, to walk alongside Kiera and Gage – seeing exactly what was causing them the most stress in sorting out how they fit together and why that was presenting such a conflict as well. Concurrent to their difficulties in sorting out their feelings for each other, there was a greater scope of depth surrounding what was causing a lot of strife for Kiera and her brother Trevor.

Aside from the robbery at the graveyard, you would speculate A Grave Matter also spoke of the grave matters surrounding the heart, mind and subconscious state of the Darby siblings. Lady Darby and Trevor never had a talking out after her husband died; never addressed the guilt Trevor had from not being a better brother nor the anguish she has felt through the aftermath. There are moments in life that can undermine your progress forward if the past is not dealt with to such an extent as to not repeat itself through tortured memory. Better to talk things out, than to let their echoes fester and plague you til the day you can no longer handle their presence.

Kiera has struggled with her psychological well-being since we first met her, as she did not live during a time where society would treat her with kindness or compassionate understanding. They’d rather seek out every way they could riddle her with judgements spun out of hearsay or fear. Part of her healing was forestalled because she had trouble accepting the assistance of those who dearly cared for her happiness. She is closed-off to most emotionally attempting to control everyone’s perception of her, but the disservice is to forsake her process to heal and recovery a measure of joy by living a life removed from her past.

-quoted from my review of A Grave Matter

I truly loved the ending chapters of the third Lady Darby novel, because at long last, I was treated to a private conversation where Lady Darby & Gage finally at long last are forevermore now known as ‘Kiera & Sebastian’! They followed their hearts, they owned their individual truths and they elected to take the risk to join together for the sake of true love!

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Book Review | “A Study in Death” (#LadyDarby, No.4) by Anna Lee HuberA Study in Death
Subtitle: A Lady Darby Mystery

Scotland, 1831. After a tumultuous courtship complicated by three deadly inquiries, Lady Kiera Darby is thrilled to have found both an investigative partner and a fiancé in Sebastian Gage. But with her well-meaning—and very pregnant—sister planning on making their wedding the event of the season, Kiera could use a respite from the impending madness.

Commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, Kiera is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness’s eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband.

Kiera isn’t sure how to help, but when she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, things take a fatal turn. The physician called to the house and Lord Drummond appear satisfied to rule her death natural, but Kiera is convinced that poison is the real culprit.

Now, armed only with her knowledge of the macabre and her convictions, Kiera intends to discover the truth behind the baroness’s death—no matter what, or who, stands in her way…

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780425281246

Series: Lady Darby Mysteries

Also in this series: The Anatomist's Wife, Mortal Arts, A Grave Matter

on 5th July, 2016

Pages: 336

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The Lady Darby Mysteries:

The Anatomist’s Wife | No.1 | (see Review)

Mortal Arts | No.2 | (see Review)

A Grave Matter | No.3 | (see Review)

A Study in Death | No.4 | Synopsis

A Pressing Engagement | No.4.5 (e-novella) | Synopsis

As Death Draws Near | No.5 | Synopsis | Happy #PubDay 5th of July, 2016

Published By: Berkley Prime Crime (@BerkleyMystery)

imprint of Berkley Publishing (@BerkleyPub)

via Penguin Random House (@penguinrandom)

About Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. From a young age, her imagination was boundless. She spent her summers with her brothers and sister playing Star Wars, wearing snow boots and her mother's old nightgowns while swinging plastic bats as light-sabers, and The A-Team hanging off the riding lawn mower (what else were they supposed to use for the van?). In the fourth grade, she penned her first story, and she’s been writing ever since.

Anna attended college in Music City USA-Nashville, Tennessee, where she met her husband while acting in a school production of Our Town. They married just before she graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a minor in Psychology. She now pens the award-winning Lady Darby historical mystery series for Berkley Publishing. Her debut novel, The Anatomist’s Wife, has won and been nominated for numerous awards, including a Daphne du Maurier Award and two 2013 RITA® Awards.

Anna is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She currently lives in Indiana with her family, and when not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family.

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This fourth volume marked the first time the series was published in hardback! My local library added this to their collection in July of 2015 and I am reading it one year later, as I help welcome in fifth novel, but the sixth Lady Darby story, as remember dear hearts, I had to ‘skip over’ the novella as it’s not in print or audio!

I hadn’t realised it ahead of time – but the wedding I’d dearly love to read between Lady Darby & Sebastian Gage is completely contained in the novella I am unable to read. A very sad realisation,… although, I shall not let that deflate my joy of celebrating their romance!

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My Review of A Study in Death:

Edinburgh, Scotland
March 1831, 19th Century

Lady Darby is staying with her sister Alana & her husband Philip

19th Century Medical Examiner’s Sketch Artist turnt Detective {Lady (Kiera) Darby}
Gentleman Sleuth: Mr Sebastian Gage – son of a gentlemen inquiry agent

A very fitting opener to be in the company of one of Kiera’s commissioned portrait sessions, as she found her way back to her art through sleuthing. It proved not only a way to heal her mind but to allow her spirit to unwind a bit out of the anguish that had been oppressing the weight of her conscious. We happily saw her finishing a portrait of her beloved, Sebastian whilst observing how this intent to bridge his living essence onto canvas granted him the licence he needed to own his heart by asking for her hand! It was a long time in arriving – how these two would volley back and forth about how they truly felt for one another, but to see her so wholly engaged in what she loves to give back to the world through the paints she mixes to highlight the human form was a pleasurable way to open the fourth novel!

There is trepidation mixed with joy as we settle next to Lady Darby whose intuitive instinct to ferret out the truth about her subject is alarmingly on point to the hidden secret she used to harbour about her own late husband. There is solemn truth within the exchange of honest recognition amongst women who face the same brutality of their husbands, but what felt so difficult to take in, is that there is a forbearing solemnity of how sometimes you can gather facts too late to save a life.

Kiera takes the death of her portrait subject quite to heart – as she saw a mirror version of her own fate reflected through the silent acknowledgement shining out of Lady Drummond’s eyes as she was painting. The worst confliction for Kiera is sensing she is right about what occurred and finding a way to prove her theory when the evidence is minimal or covered up by a husband not willing to let anyone investigate the matter. His cold-hearted dismissal of both his wife’s death and that of Lady Darby’s commission to capture his wife’s portrait was quite telling of his character.

Whilst at the same moment, Alana is having complications constrict her movements as her fourth child is not allowing her third trimester to go forward without cause for concern. Her sister’s well-being is forefront on her mind, but it’s how Lady Drummond might have suffered under her husband that tips Kiera to reconsider her own past and how moving forward was a slippery slope. She still has trouble trusting what Gage tells her in confidence as there is a murmur of doubt on the edge of her being – how to properly close the door on her former life and believe in the validity of the trust she’s built with Sebastian is her greatest worry.

This is the first time where Mr Gage & Lady Darby are reunited quite quickly after the opening scenes, as they are staying in the same city (Edinburgh) and have announced their engagement, it makes putting them together a bit easier than having to await an official inquiry to begin. We are gathering a bit of an insider glimpse into how their lives will start to merge together – where they go between their private lives together and stay in close contact with their families. It’s quite fitting really, to start to see how comfortable Alana and Philip are to have Sebastian around, whilst in turn Sebastian is trying to remember he can be causal and comfortable around them in return!

If you had to go by first impressions, I would shudder to think that the Lord Gage, of whom presented such a vile discontent for Kiera, would remain a nemesis to the soon to be betrothed couple! His vileness was further disconcerting by his lack of tact, his venom-laced words and a clear carelessness about respecting his son’s choice in marriage. You could see by this first meeting why Mr Gage was nebulous in the past in regards to disclosing personal history and why he was deflecting all of Kiera’s curiosities about his father!

Lady Stratford made an appearance – something I felt she might do, as there was a door left open for her to come back into Kiera’s life. After the lengths Kiera had gone to clear her name (in The Antatomist’s Wife) it wasn’t hard to wonder why she had a fondness for Kiera now. Such a nice gesture of her to offer to lessen the ridicule in public by helping Kiera know how to navigate society circles, too!

Sebastian still rankled Kiera in regards to remaining silent about certain aspects of his past, as she found him most frustrating, as despite his assurances of trust, she grew thin on patience to await his disclosures. By contrast, Sebastian was wondering when she would stop refusing to see that he was nothing like her former husband. They each have battled their fears and doubts – not just of each other, but the ability to trust someone by being fully transparent with their memories and emotions. Each time they draw closer together, they remain a bit apart, as each does not want to admit they share the same fault of omission. All Kiera wants is for Gage to admit above all else her observations are valid and that she has something worthwhile to contribute. When he rejects her in front of others, even for the sake of an investigation, it brings her self-esteem down to a paltry level of remorse for trusting him in the first place.

Lord Gage is truly insufferable!

I honestly did not find Lord Gage to be a character I could ever warm too, personally! His obtuse behaviour regarding Lady Darby is simply not justified, but it truly does add another layer of how her era was harshly critical of everyone. I was truly disinterested in seeing him as I was dearly fraught with concern over Alana’s condition! My heart clutched itself into my throat when I realised just how dire her situation with delivering her fourth child was becoming! Counterpoint to this, was the sad reality that Philip was withdrawing due to his emotional anguish and the fears of losing his wife in childbirth – if Kiera hadn’t been there, I am unsure how the family would have rallied! It was a very heart-warming layer of the story, as it’s always been a centre focus of family and the ties of how family are important to a  person’s life.

I personally have loved seeing Kiera attach herself to Earl Grey, the cheeky cat whose meant to chase mice but would rather keep company with his mistress of art! I hadn’t realised the name of the cat was related to history, as I am used to the strongly brewed tea! Laughs. It’s interesting how a heart can warm towards a companion animal even when someone is hesitating to be close to anyone, much less the affections of a cat! Being a cat lover myself, I thought it was wicked lovely Earl Grey has left such a strong impression on Kiera!

This story was a bit bittersweet for me – although, I will always champion the progress of Sebastian & Kiera knitting their lives together and sorting out how it is they want to lead a close-knit married life, what bothered me a bit the most is how certain things were left remiss. I had gone into reading this story with the newfound realisation I wouldn’t be treated to the wedding, but then, imagine my shock when I saw that originally the wedding was the last paragraph of the last chapter!? A blink of an inclusion and not very telling in that!? I nearly mused if that was written as if this was originally the last Lady Darby story, as it was so final and had such finality to it – almost as if there wasn’t a future!?

Such heavy emotions reading this story – as your anguished if Kiera and Gage will sort out their misunderstandings – those two take the long walk round a mountain to sort everything out! Whilst at the same time your questioning why Alana’s health was put in such dire straits and why Philip had to go through his bout of anxiety – although, these were very realistically true to life, it’s just hard to watch characters you’ve become very fond of suffer through such difficulties! And, of course, the story-line involving Lady Drummond was simply sad on all fronts. I daresay, I am hopefully curious that I shall find a classical return to the momentum of the previous installments as I move into As Death Draws Near, as I did find this was my least favourite of the ones I’ve read.

Small Fly in the Ointment:

I was quite shocked that originally the ‘wedding’ between Sebastian and Kiera was included at the very end of the very last chapter of this novel! If your familiar with the synopsis for A Pressing Engagement you know what was said within this chapter! This was a bit annoying to me – as I couldn’t fathom why the scene was originally shortened to an abbreviated paragraph or two?! I suspected this is why the novella was written – to enlarge the wedding to more than an ‘afterthought’ and properly give Sebastian & Kiera their due of celebrating a day we all have cheered to happen!

A note about missing the ‘wedding’ of the century:

Although, it’s true I’ve grown used to novella editions being published in-between novels, where parts of the story are explored further and/or secondary characters are given their licence to be fully focused upon wherein a full novel might not be warranted, I must confess, I still struggle with reconciling at times, the stories I will not be able to meet due to a limited release within one format to be read. I was so caught up inside my readings of the Lady Darby series this past week, I hadn’t known I overlooked the fact that the novella was ‘the wedding!’ for Kiera & Sebastian!

My heart dropped, I will admit, dear hearts, because I’ve been so keenly attached to the progress of these two partners in crime, I was wholly enthused & eagerly anticipating their nuptials! If Huber has proven anything, I know she will include a ‘follow-up’ recollection of the wedding in As Death Draws Near (at least I hope so?) but it will not be the same as having been able to read or hear (via audiobook) the actual wedding I’ve wished to attend.

It’s my fervent hope, each novella of every series I dearly love to read will either be released in print editions and/or audio at such a point in the future when their able to be given to those of us who are traditional readers. I’ve blogged or tweeted quite extensively about how I do not read e-books (see also #LibraryLoot, No.2) due to my chronic migraines, and hope one day all stories will be released across platforms for each reader who wants to know what is inside them. Thus, this novella for the Lady Darby series is added to my list of ‘hopeful’ future releases.

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This review is part of a six-post series about #LadyDarby:

#JorieReads the #LadyDarby series banner created by Jorie via Canva. Book Photography Credit: Jorie of

As I complete my readings of each #LadyDarby Mystery and assemble my collective thoughts on behalf of each of them in turn, I shall be releasing my reviews of the series in sequence of their publication with the one exception of A Pressing Engagement (as I do not read e-books) throughout the week. Leading up to my serial overview and reflections whilst hosting the Book Blast Celebration on behalf of the 5th release of As Death Draws Near. I received a special edition of the fifth release from the publisher in conjunction with the celebration and I can happily say Lady Darby came ‘home’ for the first time since I ‘met her via my local library’! In total, there will be six posts featured on Jorie Loves A Story – where I have the extreme pleasure of blogging my reactions to the series as it unfolded before my eyes!

I hope this second review will inspire your returned visits throughout the week, seeing what impressed me next and how Lady Darby kept captivating me as I read her further investigative adventures!

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Previously I disclosed my admiration on behalf of each book in sequential order:

The Anatomist’s Wife (see Review)

Mortal Arts (see Review)

A Grave Matter (see Review)

As well as shared a wink & a nod about my readings of this series via #LibraryLoot, No.2!

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Reader Interactive Question:

What draws your eye into a Cosy Historical Mystery with elements of Cosy Horror threading throughout the investigative bits with a fiercely strong female lead character!?

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the novel or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same novel to read.

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{SOURCES: Author photograph of Anna Lee Huber, Book Covers of “The Anatomist’s Wife”, “Mortal Arts”, “A Grave Matter” and “A Study in Death”, the Book Synopsis for “A Study in Death”, and the Author Biography were provided by the author Anna Lee Huber and used by permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

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Posted Sunday, 10 July, 2016 by jorielov in 19th Century, Amateur Detective, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Castles & Estates, Cosy Historical Mystery, Cosy Horror, Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Romance, Historical Thriller Suspense, Lady Detective Fiction, Library Catalogues & Databases, Library Find, Library Love, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Psychological Suspense, Scotland, Siblings, Sisters & the Bond Between Them, the Victorian era

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One response to “Book Review | “A Study in Death” (#LadyDarby, No.4) by Anna Lee Huber

  1. So this was my least favorite Lady Darby novel. On one hand I liked the mystery better than in the last book but the romance stalled for me. I felt like the whole Greece reveal was kind of blah for me. So much build up over the last 2 books that I was expecting something WAY bigger. I personally was like, oh, that’s it?! To me no big deal. The murdered mother situation for Gage was much more of a ‘shock’ to me than Greece was. I also felt let down that we missed the ‘wedding of the century’ that was such a big part of the plot. I suppose that’s what the novella is for but honestly I felt kind of short changed when it came to the wedding. Lord Gage truly was insufferable as you have said! I know he is in the next book and I simply cannot garner an ounce of sympathy for him. I don’t know if I will be able to stand another book with him in it…..though I am hoping he will melt a little and finally accept Kiera but who knows….it would have to be a pretty big service that Kiera rendered him to get on his good graces and for readers to find empathy for him. I think the series over all is really well done and interesting, this one just wasn’t as good as the others and sometimes that happens. Not every book in a series can be 5 stars and this book certainly wasn’t. But does that put me off to the series as a whole? No, not at all. As I said, the mystery in my opinion was better than the 3rd book however it was far from the magic of the first book. The mystery in this book was a little darker but it wasn’t without issues of its own. For me I felt like the mystery needed more red herrings. The suspect should have been obvious from the start and I was constantly thinking WHY AREN’T YOU QUESTIONING THAT PERSON! However, there were other stronger suspects that seemed to take over and then I think it was hard for Kiera and Gage to get past the obvious suspects. So even though this book fell short of my expectations, I am looking forward to reading the next book so that I am caught up for the upcoming books that will be released. :)

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