4 star

A Death Draws Near

Lady Darby Mystery #5

By Anna Lee Huber


Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele

Synopsis:  As Death Draws Near

June 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.

Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travels to Rathfarnham and Lorreto Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.

Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end… (Goodreads)


In A Death Draws Near, the fifth book in the stellar Lady Darby Mystery series, Anna Lee Huber takes readers to a dangerously charged Ireland with newlyweds Kiera and Gage.  It is a fantastic adventure.

In the summer of 1831, Kiera and Gage are finally wed and enjoying a relaxing honeymoon in the English countryside until Gage receives a letter from his father, Lord Gage, “asking” both he and Kiera to travel to Loretto Abbey in Ireland to investigate the murder of Harriet Lennox, a young postulate who also happens to be a cousin of the Duke of Wellington.  Initially hesitant to cut their honeymoon short, they quickly decide that they must go.  They cross the path of the Marquess of Marsdale, and he insinuates himself into their travel.  It comes to light that Marsdale is also a Miss Lennox’s cousin.  They are given virtually no information about Miss Lennox or her death, and they find the climate in Rathfarnham filled with tension, the conflicts between the Catholics and Protestants about to come to a head.  Because Miss Lennox had converted to Catholicism and was soon to be a nun, the residents of the village, both the Catholics who do not trust the Protestant investigators and the local Protestants who think her murder does not warrant investigating since she was Catholic, are resistant to talk to the Gages.  Through patience and hard work they chip away at the truth, but when another nun is murdered and secrets are revealed, things become increasingly dangerous for them.

The Lady Darby books are among my most treasured reads, and I was not disappointed by As Death Draws Near at all.  Huber has created exceptionally complex, well-developed characters that grow and change with each passing book.  The Kiera presented here is not the same as the wounded, rather fragile Kiera we are introduced to in The Anatomist’s Wife.  She has grown so much, become much more comfortable in her own skin and with her abilities.  However, she still has doubts that must be addressed in this book and worked through on her own.  These doubts make her all the more believable and relatable.  Her newlywed glow is adorable, and she is definitely smitten with her new husband.  Gage remains the perfect partner for Kiera, charming and comfortable in all social settings.  He obviously holds Kiera in high regard, and even though he worries for her safety, he does not try to put her on a pedestal or keep her from being his investigative partner.  We learn more about Kiera’s ladies maid Bree in this installment, and see valet Anderley featured in the story.  It was nice to revisit Marsdale(from The Anatomist’s Wife), and I fully believe he is not as bad as he puts on.

The locations and history are impeccably researched.  Huber’s attention to detail and accuracy transport me to a different time and place.  It is all fascinating.  I knew of the Irish Catholic/Protestant conflict in a very superficial, history lesson kind of way.  The subject is central to the plot, and I felt great sympathy for the Catholics of the era.  I could not help but make comparisons to similar strife in our own time, both religious and racial.  How little things really change.

The mystery is very well executed, sufficiently complex and finely revealed.  Each scene is important to the plot, each bit of information uncovered vitally important to the outcome.  Of course, all is not as it seems, and I was kept guessing whodunit until the murderer’s identity was exposed.  There is one final twist that I did not see coming at all.  Huber’s ability to surprise is only one element I love so much about these books.

I highly recommend As Death Draws Near, and the entire Lady Darby series, to any and all mystery readers.  I cannot wait for the Gages next adventure.