Please welcome my friend Anna Lee Huber to Murder She Writes! You may have heard of Anna’s new book, The Anatomist’s Wife, which is getting rave reviews. The novel is a historical mystery about a newly widowed young woman who is visiting the Scottish Highlands when she becomes drawn into a murder investigation. Today Anna gives us a glimpse of some of the research that went into her story.
First of all, thank you Laura for hosting me here at Murder She Writes. I’m so happy to be here.
Two years ago when my husband and I visited Scotland, I had almost completed the manuscript that would become The Anatomist’s Wife, but I still needed to fill in some of the details. I wanted to smell the air, and walk the earth, and watch the mist roll over the mountains. Because I had already written most of the story, none of my settings were based on specific places, but I certainly borrowed bits and pieces from the locations we toured.
One of my favorite spots was Carnassarie Castle, an old, crumbling tower house about a mile hike from the road north of Kilmartin. The castle is maintained, but not staffed, and so you mostly have it all to yourself as your wander the ruins. The view from the top of the tower house, which is still accessible, is absolutely stunning, and instantly reminded me of the countryside I had imagined around my novel’s main setting – Gairloch Castle.
We headed further north, visiting the famous Eilean Donan Castle on the shores of Loch Duich. Though in no way an exact replica of my Gairloch Castle, there were parts of it that were quite similar, including some of the chambers, which I could not take photos of. This picture I snapped of the loch was especially perfect, considering what an important role it plays in a scene near the end of The Anatomist’s Wife.
Unfortunately, we were plagued by rain and mist through much of our trip through the Highlands, so visibility was poor, and our pictures even worse. But I was at least able to soak up the atmosphere and experience how the weather affects the landscape. There is truly no place like the Highlands. It’s absolutely unique. And it really does feel mystical somehow. I read somewhere that it either calls to you, or it doesn’t. And if it does, that means it’s in your blood, that someone in your ancestry was a Highlander. This is almost certainly superstition, but being there, I could believe it.
Back in the lowlands, we visited Edinburgh, where I was eager to see the Surgeons’ Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. There they had fascinating displays on the history of surgery and anatomy. One of their most famous exhibits houses some of well-known anatomist and lecturer Dr. Robert Knox’s personal items, as well as the famous would-be-bodysnatcher-turned-murderer Burke’s death mask, skeleton, and several articles made from his tanned skin, including a book cover. The weather that day was also uncooperative, but I found this photo of a late nineteenth century engraving of the exterior of the Surgeons’ Hall.
We also stopped outside St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile to snap this picture of the spot near where Burke was hanged on January 28, 1829 after
being convicted of sixteen counts of murder. His partner, Hare, turned state’s evidence, and escaped prosecution entirely. The discovery of Burke and Hare’s misdeeds caused panic in Edinburgh and London, making citizens fear that similar enterprising criminals might be at work, murdering hapless citizens and selling their bodies to anatomists and medical schools.
I had so much fun searching through the photos from our trip again, choosing which ones to use for this blog. I would have included thirty of them if I could have. I can’t wait to go back. There’s always more to see, and more research to be done.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Anatomist’s Wife! The winner will be announced next Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Anna Lee Huber was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, where she majored in Music and minored in Psychology. THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE, the first book in the Lady Darby historical mystery series, has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…” She currently lives in Indiana with her husband and troublemaking tabby cat. When not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family. Visit her website at www.annaleehuber.com.