Monday, 14 January 2019

Review: A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber

Publication date: July 1st 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 421

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her dear friend, Lady Kiera Darby is in need of a safe haven. Returning to her childhood home, Kiera hopes her beloved brother Trevor and the merriment of the Hogmanay Ball will distract her. But when a caretaker is murdered and a grave is disturbed at nearby Dryburgh Abbey, Kiera is once more thrust into the cold grasp of death.
While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage.
When Gage arrives, he reveals that the incident at the Abbey was not the first—some fiend is digging up old bones and holding them for ransom. Now Kiera and Gage must catch the grave robber and put the case to rest…before another victim winds up six feet under.

The first book in this series completely captivated me - "The Anatomist's Wife" had all the suspense, intrigue, and isolation that I adore in my murder mystery books. Yet the follow up "Mortal Arts" left a lot to be desired and I found myself putting off reading this third book for quite some time, fearing that it wouldn't quite follow through on the promise of that beautiful first book. Sadly, I was right.

Make no mistake, this is still an enjoyable read, and I'm glad to be back in the series and looking forward to continuing it. However there are still a lot of problems that marred my enjoyment. The first is the modern language. There are some places where the language is spot on, and then others where modern phrases and colloquialisms slip in, throwing me out of the story and leaving me frustrated. One of my biggest peeves is a historical novel that can't get the period right.

Secondly, one of my favourite things when reading a whodunnit, is to be able to pick up the breadcrumbs the author leaves and try to puzzle out the mystery myself. Deanna Raybourn is a truly excellent example of an author who gives you the pieces, but doesn't make it blindingly obvious, leaving you to experience a truly thrilling mystery. However I'm finding more and more with Huber's books that the trail of crumbs is thrown haphazardly around, with no real clues just a load of false starts, and then a twist pulled out of thin air in the last fifty pages that you were never able to predict because the set up wasn't there. If there's no real set up then there isn't a payoff, which just leads to frustration all round.

It's still an enjoyable read. Huber creates suspense and thrills like you wouldn't believe, and I adore watching a lot of it play out. I also love her characters. Yes, Kiera can be a little frustrating, but I love the relationships she has with her siblings, how she's finding herself and working herself out at last, and her relationship with Gage is a sight to behold.

So it was an enjoyable read, but a little too frustrating to tip it into one of the higher star ratings. However I'll definitely be picking up the fourth book soon to see where Kiera and Gage end up next.

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