Review: The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby Mystery #1)

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…

Alas, another historical detective novel that could have been so good but failed to hit the mark… This one I even told myself I wouldn’t like, in the hopes that I would jinx myself and end up with something amazing. There’s so many good reviews for it as well! Hell, even Simone St. James rated it 5 stars, and seeing as she’s awesome, I thought this book would be great!

Well…. It wasn’t. It definitely had a good story and an interesting main character, but it fell down on historical accuracy and characterisation.

I feel as if this book should have been set about a hundred years after it was- so in 1930, not 1830. I think the author perhaps found her “interesting historical facts” (as she says in her author’s note) and worked the story to fit around those, rather than the other way around.

The attitudes of the party guests towards sex were far, far too modern. This is set in Georgian England, a time far less straight laced than the Victorian era immediately afterwards, but I still struggle to believe that the sex and other matters so openly discussed in this book would have been acceptable in the Upper Class. It would absolutely never have been acceptable for a gentleman to be alone in a lady’s bedroom at night. No way, nuh uh.

I also spotted a fair few anachronisms that really make me wonder how much research the author did before writing this book. Just to mention a few, the names of the protagonist and her sister are 20th Century, as is headache powder. This, along with a few others, plus linguistic anachronisms, really, really bugged me.

Not to mention, last I checked, Scotland is entirely devoid of racoons. Perhaps she meant wild haggis?

So totally legit.

I think what bothers me most about this is that this could have been a really good book. It has the bones of a good book there, but the flesh just wasn’t right. The execution was poor and the writing made me cringe, but the story was good enough to keep me going until the end.

Perhaps if the author had set the book in 1930 it would have worked, but even that is pushing it. Lady Darby’s reactions and opinions are far too modern to be believable in her setting. The rest of the cast of characters read like caricatures of what 21st century (*cough* American *cough*) people think about the British aristocracy. I ended up checking the nationality of the author and wasn’t surprised to find she is American… I don’t mean that as a bad thing against her, but I definitely think she’s played into the modern stereotyped British character tropes.

Speaking of tropes, this book unfortunately ends on the classic “Damsel Walks Headlong Into Obvious Trap and Needs Saving By Male Love Interest” trope. Not a fan, especially when the heroine is meant to be so clever.

I was reading this for pure escapism, but the problems made the escaping a bit more difficult than it needed to be. It’s such a pity, as it really did seem like something I would really enjoy. Also, I quite like the cover, which is a bit silly but it’s true!

I’m honestly surprised by all the good reviews for this book. Perhaps I’m being overly picky, but it just really, really wasn’t up there with the best (or even middle) of it’s genre. Perhaps it is first book syndrome, but it definitely doesn’t make me want to pick up the next in the series. Someone needs to give the author a few good history books, books about British speech and ecology, perhaps a few good classics of the period and take away her thesaurus.

2/5 stars

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7 thoughts on “Review: The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby Mystery #1)

  1. Golden rule : the girl always needs to be saved. Ever notice how in movies too the supposedly smart girl does something unbelievably dumb and gets caught by the villain (like leaving her phone on when “hiding”) 😐 They have to otherwise the writers just don’t seem to know how to take the story forward !! So irritating !

  2. Pingback: My Bookish Pet Peeves | bookarahma

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