“The scream froze me in my tracks, but the shout that followed propelled me out of my indecision and around the hedge line of the maze…Lady Godwin lay draped across a stone bench, her eyes stared sightlessly into the night sky and her mouth seemed frozen open on a scream.”
“Death was not unfamiliar to me. I had seen more than my fair share of corpses in my lifetime…so I hardly relished the appearance of yet another one, and in my sister’s garden no less. I shivered, feeling the fear and shadows stir inside me I had worked so hard to lay to rest since my husband’s death.”
So begins this book, the first in a series set in Scotland 1830. The rather gruesome murder puts you into the story quickly, and while the narrator is clearly a woman, you have to wonder why she is familiar with corpses. Then in short order, she is being accused of doing the deed, with many of the people at the gathering whispering about blood on her hands.
Lady Kiera Darby is somewhat of a recluse, and is living with her sister in a remote Scottish estate following the death of her husband. Unfortunately, the sins of the husband have tainted Kiera’s reputation. He had been a surgeon, but was in the process of putting a book together on human anatomy which would include detailed illustrations. Kiera is an artist, and he had forced her to paint the illustrations of the various body parts. Unfortunately when that bit of information was revealed to society, everyone assumed that she had been a willing participant in this and even that she helped him procure the bodies. Sadly she has been viewed under the lens of her husband, as if that was the only way to see her. Now she only wants to stay away from society and paint as she pleases.
However, this situation can’t be escaped. Since it’s a houseful of guests in a remote location, it’s clear that one of them must be the murderer, and no one should leave until they discover who did it. It will be a few days before any kind of law authority can make it there, so her brother-in-law, the Earl of Cromarty, asks Sebastian Gage another of the guests to assist. He is an inquiry agent, with a military background so he’s happy to step in. He’s also extremely handsome and charming, and well aware of his effect on women. Kiera isn’t impressed with him and her dislike is obvious; however, the earl is also asking her to assist Gage, based on her knowledge of anatomy.
As the story progresses, they form an alliance despite their initial antagonism. They are both reluctant to reveal too much of themselves, but find along the way that their initial perception of each other was based on superficialities. There’s a slow building attraction between them, even though there’s very little actual romantic interaction in this book. It’s clear that something will be sizzling in future installments!
The mystery itself is not overly complicated, but Ms Huber does a good job of throwing in some twists along the way. I liked the relationship between Kiera and her sister Alana and I’m looking forward to book two. I enjoy the historical mystery genre quite a bit, and the start of this series has definitely captured my interest.
(I should add a note that the descriptions of the murdered woman, and details of what happened to her may be a little disturbing for some readers.)