As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby Mystery #5) by Anna Lee Huber

While enjoying their idyllic honeymoon, Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage’s seclusion is interrupted by a missive from his father. A distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has had a deadly incident and Lord Gage insists that his son and new daughter in law look in to the matter.

With the incident occurring at an abbey just south of Dublin, Kiera and Gage travel to Ireland intent on discovering just who could be monstrous enough to murder a woman of the cloth. Travelling to Rathfarnham Abbey School, the young couple barely begin to make inquiries when another nun is slain, this time in broad daylight and near a class of young girls.

Though there are some who would wish to send the students home for their own safety, the growing civil unrest in Ireland means the journey would be a dangerous one and the Mother Superior makes the decision to keep the girls in place. This places yet another strain on the investigation as it seems that everywhere one turns, secrets and half truths lie.

As Death Draws Near is the fifth and most recent addition to the Lady Darby Series. It opens with Kiera and Sebastian on their honeymoon, their marriage happening at the end of the fourth book. What is supposed to be an idyllic time is marred when a letter arrives from Sebastian’s father practically ordering them to head to Ireland. Both naturally bristle at this but as neither can resist such a mystery, they head off almost immediately.

During the 1800’s there was a good deal of strife between those of the Catholic faith and those of the Protestant. Huber uses this to good effect in this most recent book, placing characters at odds and having others question themselves and what they believe in. It’s actually quite fitting considering some of the things that have been going on in the real world.

Like in past books, Huber’s writing is tight and well paced. She is able to capture the characters as well as capture the readers attention. Those who have been following the series so far will enjoy this particular entry. New readers will likely enjoy it as well and are advised to seek out the earlier books as well.

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Art in the Blood by Bonnie MacBird

London, 1888. After a disastrous Ripper investigation, Sherlock Holmes languishes in a cocaine fueled haze in his flat on Baker Street. His good friend, John Watson, can neither comfort nor rouse his friend and is more and more worried about the other man’s health. The only thing that can rouse him is a new case and that comes in the form of an encoded letter from Paris.

Mlle La Victoire, a renowned cabaret star, has written to Holmes in great need. Her young son has been kidnapped and she fears his father, a known Lord, is to blame.

Holmes rushes to Paris with Watson at his side, where he finds the missing child to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The theft of a well known statue in Marseilles and the deaths of three children in Lancashire also vie for Holmes and Watson’s attention. The clues in all three cases eventually point to one man – an art collector who is seemingly above the reach of the law.

Art in the Blood is the first novel by movie and television executive and producer Bonnie MacBird. My dearest reader, if this is her first book and she has plans for writing more then I will be one happy person!

Art in the Blood follows our dear Holmes after a disastrous investigation in to the Jack the Ripper case. While what happened is alluded to, it is enough to make the reader guess that what occurred was not pleasant at all. For Sherlock or any one else.

MacBird does a wonderful job of penning a Holmes adventure; well enough to make Doyle himself proud. Clues are dropped throughout the narrative and only at the grand finale does everything come together and make sense.

The books only downfall comes with the way the characters speak at times. MacBird admits she was influenced by the actors who played Holmes and Watson themselves, from Jeremy Brett and David Burke to Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It is evident that she drew heavily from the latter for speech for there are certain scenes – especially one particular scene with older brother Mycroft – that I heard the actor’s voices in my head.

Is this a bad thing? For me it isn’t as I adore the modern version of Sherlock Holmes just as much as I adore the original stories. However some readers might not like it, particularly those who regard themselves as “purists”.

MacBird says this is the first book in a proposed series. Personally, I greatly enjoyed this first foray and look forward to more.

Night Watch (Watch #1) and Day Watch (Watch #2) by Sergei Lukyanenko

In modern day Moscow, there live an ancient race of humans who call themselves “Others”. Gifted with supernatural powers, they must swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. The agents of Dark make up the Day Watch and are tasked with keeping an eye on the city during the day. Likewise, the agents of Light make up the Night Watch and keep watch over the night.

For over a thousand years an uneasy truce has stood between the two sides. When an artifact is stolen from the Inquisitors – an impartial group of Others who keep watch over both sides – the consequences are dire.

Day Watch is the semi sequel to the aptly named Night Watch. I say semi sequel because the events in the book occur side by side with one another. The events that happen are told from two different perspectives, from the different members of the watch in their respectively titled books.

Having a storyline handled in such a manner made for an interesting read. Interesting in how the characters acted and reacted as well as the thoughts going through their heads at the time. How each side sees themselves as being “in the right”.

The Day Watch and the Night Watch are two sides of the same coin; they balance each other out on the cosmic scales. Neither watch is either truly good or truly evil – another thing I liked about these books – but are both cast in shades of gray. While the Day Watch embraces this grayness about them, the Night Watch seek to try and lighten the color. Again, showing how they are different.

Originally written in Russian, these books were translated in to English. Translation from one language in to another is never perfect, yet I felt these were well handled. The prose in Night Watch felt a bit clunky at times while Day Watch‘s translation seemed a bit smoother.

Day Watch (and Night Watch) are not for the casual reader. These books are a little heavier to read and process mentally. Not every one will enjoy them but the serious reader should definitely give them a look.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

Milo is a very old soul. To date, he has been reincarnated over 9000 times; each time hopefully taking him one step closer to Perfection and Nirvana.

There is one small problem though…Milo doesn’t want to reach Perfection. He wants to spend his eternity with Suzie, aka Death. And it turns out she wants to spend it with him.

Milo now has to make a choice. You see, a soul can only be reincarnated 10,000 times before it must either move on to Perfection or fall in to the Void. But what good is Perfection if you cannot spend the time with the one you love?

Reincarnation Blues is one of those unique books that is hard to describe. Many have compared it to books by Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams and after reading it I can see why. On the surface it seems a light hearted, almost formulaic tale – a young man searching for a way to be with his true love. Having to overcome various obstacles, so forth and so on.

Yet underneath there are darker threads interwoven through the story. Some of the lives Milo lives are fairly standard. While there are others that see him pushed to his limits, both mentally and physically. A few of them were actually hard for me to read because of this.

One thing I did find interesting was Milo’s transformation throughout the story. In the beginning he believes he knows the perfect way to reach Perfection (pun intended), yet with each life cycle he comes to realize that perhaps he doesn’t know everything. That every person must find their own path and there is no one correct way.

Overall, I liked Reincarnation Blues very much. Readers who enjoy Douglas Adams and other authors of their ilk will enjoy this one too.