Title: As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby 5)
Author: Anna Lee Huber
Publication Date: 2016
While relaxing on their idyllic honeymoon in the Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s bliss is interrupted when they receive a missive from Lord Gage, forcefully requesting their assistance with the murder of a nun at an abbey in the village of Rathfarnham in Ireland. Not appreciating his father’s high-handedness, Kiera and Gage reluctantly agree to make the journey to Ireland; partly because of the heinous nature of the crime and partly due to the fact that the murdered nun was a cousin of the Duke of Wellington. Kiera and Gage, along with their servants Bree and Anderley, travel across the rough waters, and along the way, they run into an old acquaintance.
When they arrive at Lorreto Abbey, the identity of the killer seems elusive, and many factors interfere with their ability to find out the truth. The local constabulary isn’t totally honest about their loyalties or their knowledge of the crime; the nuns at the abbey and some of their day school students are reticent to confide in Gage and Kiera; and the political and religious conflict between the Ribbonmen and Orangemen is boiling just under the surface.
Kiera and Gage are frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation but when masked men threaten them and another nun is found murdered, the threat strikes even closer to the newlyweds. As more details and secrets come to light, Kiera and Gage find themselves embroiled in a conflict from which they must fight to escape.
I absolutely love the Lady Darby series and this newest installment does not disappoint! The author has done a fabulous job at maintaining the dynamics and struggles of the two main characters – Kiera and Gage – while adding the new dimension of their marriage. Both are so fiercely independent and yet insecure; they each want to be their own person but need each other to do so. I love how they truly respect and appreciate each other’s intelligence. With that intelligence, there has be a bit of banter and accountability. They hold each other responsible for their thoughts and words. They are also trying to figure out how to make marriage and their investigations meld into a meaningful and acceptable way.
The book also took a bit of departure from the previous novels in that the crime committed did not have any direct relationship to Kiera or Gage; they are investigating because they are good at it and not because they have a personal stake. Of course, as the story progress, the reader realizes, perhaps even before the characters do, that they do take their investigations personally and through their inquiry and examination of the crime, they are also discovering more about themselves, their values, their commitment, and their future.
I found the history of the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics, and both the Irish and English perspectives, fascinating and also a bit depressing. In some ways, so many attitudes haven’t changed in 175 years. The author does a fantastic job at blending the fact into the story in a meaningful and understandable way; history helps the story along but doesn’t overshadow the character or plot development. Old grudges and prejudices are revealed to the characters and the reader is able to process the facts and fiction along with Kiera and Gage.
We also see a great deal of growth in Kiera herself as she struggles with the useful, although not her choice to receive, knowledge of anatomy. With Gage, she sees what a marriage and relationship should look like and yet still struggles to put aside or come to terms with her past. I think her personal growth and self-awareness really adds to the psychological depth of the crime analysis. I look forward to watching her not just “come into her own,” but to accept and actually embrace it as well.
Who might like this book:
If you like a good, well-plotted historical mystery series that puts character development first, read this series. Some of my other favorite authors – Deanna Raybourn, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Victoria Thompson, Carol K. Carr – have all written endorsements for this unique heroine and I couldn’t agree more! I anxiously await the next story in this fantastic series.
As always, don’t ruin the story by starting in the middle. Read the series in order. You will thank me.
The Anatomist’s Wife
A Grave Matter
A Study in Death
A Pressing Engagement (an eNovella)
As Death Draws Near