Saturday, April 4, 2020

ARC Review: A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber

A Stroke of Malice
Author: Anna Lee Huber
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery (Book 8)
Publication: Berkley (April 7, 2020)

Description: Lady Kiera Darby and her husband Sebastian Gage are looking forward to celebrating with new friends at an exciting yearly soiree, but they soon learn that murder never takes a holiday in the latest riveting installment in this national bestselling series.

January 1832. After enjoying a delightful few weeks with her family, expectant mother Kiera and Sebastian Gage have been invited to the Duchess of Bowmontʼs Twelfth Night party in Traquair, Scotland. Though she normally avoids such fashionable, rambunctious events, Kiera is ready to join in the festive merrymaking. But upon their arrival at the opulent estate, it becomes obvious that all is not merry in their hostess’s home. The family appears to be under a great strain, and someone seems determined to cause mayhem among the guests with a series of forged notes.

Matters swiftly turn from irksome to downright deadly when the partygoers stumble upon a decomposing body in the castleʼs crypt. The corpse is thought to be the duchessʼs son-in-law who had purportedly traveled to Paris more than a month earlier. It is evident the man met with foul play, and Kiera and Gage soon realize that a ruthless murderer walks among them—and may well be a member of the duchessʼs own family. And when the investigation takes a treacherous turn, Kiera discovers just how deep the killer is willing to dig to keep their secrets from ever seeing the light of day.

My Thoughts: This episode begins at a Twelfth Night party hosted by the Duchess of Bowmont. This isn't normally the kind of thing Keira enjoys but she does like the Duchess and is in the process of painting her portrait. The castle is full of hijinks, merriment, drunken excesses, and secrets. It is well known that the Duke and Duchess each have lovers and that the youngest four of their children do not have the Duke as their father though he has acknowledged all of them.

When a tour of the crypts beneath the castle uncover a decomposing body, Keira and Gage are asked to investigate. At first glance, he seems to be Lady Eleanor's husband Lord Helmswick who supposedly dropped off his wife and children before going off to Paris. Their marriage is not good. She hasn't heard from him and doesn't find that unusual or undesirable. In fact, she has taken a lover herself in Marsdale who is a recurring mysterious character from earlier books in the series. It turns out he was her first love though they were split apart when he did something stupid.

As Keira and Gage investigate and question those who were in residence at the castle when the murder likely took place, they learn about a Mr. Patrick Renton who had called looking for Lord Helmswick. Apparently he was blackmailing him for something or other.

Gage dispatches his valet and assistant sleuth Anderley to Helmswick's home to investigate. This is concerning to all of them because the reason Lady Eleanor and the children are at the castle is that cholera is spreading where they have their home. Fears are that Anderley might contract it.

Apparently Keira is getting close to some answers because she is pushed down a flight of stairs which partially dislocates her right shoulder and damages her ribs. She is very concerned that it might have done harm to the baby she is carrying.

As Keira investigates, she also learns a secret that has implications on her own new family which she very much wants to share with Gage but gives the other party a chance to share the information with him before she does. The story ends with that plot thread dangling.

I like this series very much. I like the setting and I like the marriage that Gage and Keira are building which is rather different than the upper class marriages all around them. Of course, this does cause some conflicts with her own sister who fears for her safety and causes an argument between the sisters.

I like that Keira tells the story and that we see the world through her eyes. Fans of the series won't want to miss this excellent entry.

Favorite Quote:
Whatever she did of didn't know, she had been placed in an unenviable position. ut the facts of the matter were that her son-in-law was most likely dead - killed here, at the castle, where her daughter was now carrying on an affair with possibly her first love. I could not overlook those things. Not when the death was so violent, and the concealment of the body indicated it was murder  If I did so now, for her, then what did that say about me? What did that say about all of our past investigations? Did I truly care for truth and justice, or only when t suited me?
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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