Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.
Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims.
Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned.
Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil.
If you’re a fan of criminal suspense books, like those of Terri Blackstock, you’ll want to read Parks’ latest “When Death Draws Near.” It has all the action and suspense of a murder mystery but the drama like you’d find on the big screen. The combination can’t be easy to pull off, and yet Parks wrote so many twists and turns into her story that she kept me guessing until the very last page.
Gwen isn’t your typical leading lady. She’s not super young, super rich, or super pretty. In fact, she’s divorced, broke, and a cancer survivor – with the scars to show it. Her rough predicament pulled at my heartstrings more than once, but I liked her all the more for it. She was real – and she was really smart, too. I love stories in which the characters really use their brains to solve the case.
In Gwen’s case, it went a bit beyond that, because while it was her brains that figured out whodunit, it was also her endurance that saved her skin – literally. Parks wrote a climactic ending that went on and on, spurring me on to find resolution.
Mystery stories have been my favorite since I read my first Hardy Boys’ when I was seven, and I’ve collected a long list of great mystery authors since that time. I’m happy to report that I’ve just added another.
Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.
Find out more about Carrie Stuart at http://www.carriestuartparks.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.