When Death Draws Near (A Gwen Marcey Novel) - Carrie Stuart Parks

Gwen Marcey takes death in stride. Until she’s faced with her own mortality.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before Gwen can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others. Gwen suspects a connection between the rapist and the “accidental” deaths that are happening around town, but the local sheriff has little interest in her theories. When her digitally-obsessed teenage daughter joins her, Gwen turns her attention to a second assignment: going undercover in a serpent-handling church. She could get a handsome reward for uncovering illegal activity—a reward she desperately needs, as it seems her breast cancer has returned. But snakes aren’t the only ones ready to kill. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself? In a thrilling race against time, When Death Draws Near plunges us into cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects.






Forensic artist Gwen Marcey returns once again, this time in Pineville, Kentucky, to work on a case involving a serial rapist. Yet unidentified, the perp has only been dubbed "the Hillbilly Rapist" by the media. Women are kidnapped, raped and tortured for days on end and then left for dead. Survivors and their families quietly leave town, leaving virtually no trace of ever being a resident of Pineville. When bodies start cropping up around town, the investigation starts to point back to a group of Pentecostal snake worshippers. Gwen Marcey is called in to look over one of the much-mutilated corpses but is surprised to find she's getting quite the cold shoulder (as far as assistance) from the police department claiming to need her skills. Marcey suspects her presence on the case may only be as a token figure to make the police department look good, as in covering all the bases, to the media. The officers come to the conclusion that someone needs to infiltrate the serpent handling congregation to gather information, but are concerned about the risk. Marcey, baited with the promise of a large sum of money -- that she desperately needs --  if she agrees to the assignment, is asked to go undercover to investigate. What she uncovers has her questioning who the real threat in this case may be... the people being pointed out... or the people pointing the finger?


I've been really enjoying this series to date, so when I found that the new Gwen Marcey novel was set in Appalachian country (my "neck of the woods" as far as general area of the country, though I don't currently live in KY), I was that much more excited to dig into this one and see where her investigations take her. A bit to my dismay, I ended up not quite loving this one as much as the previous adventures -- if you could call them that, given what she gets into lol. While I've heard some reviewers say they were a little turned off by the subject of serpent handlers, that part didn't bother me so much as the way some of the characters themselves were crafted here.


The KY police officers struck me as somewhat cartoonish in the way they were written, and I'm sorry but their mountain sayings as far as those "busier than __" and what not, the ones written here were just BAD. I even read them to my husband who grew up near the hollers and he shook his head, laughed and said, "Yeah, I don't know anyone who would use that one." Granted though, some of his favorites lean more towards the dirty, profane or risque ... so maybe given that Parks is published through a Christian Fic publisher, she might have had to keep 'em clean. :-P 


There was also a part near the end that bothered me a bit where Marcey makes a comment where she's basically spitting out a medical diagnosis of one of the characters. Yes, given her work, she likely does have a grasp on some medical knowledge in general, but not being an actual doctor character, I felt the character should have started the statement with "I SUSPECT this person has ____" instead of saying it as fact. 


Oh, and if you've read all the Marcey books up to this point, Robert, the ex-husband makes another appearance ... and he's still a toolbag ;-)


The overall plot in this Gwen Marcey novel seemed to have a much slower burn / build-up than the previous novels in the series, a little more predictable in the way things unfold, and in the end I felt this one lacked some of the fine intricacies of the previous investigations. I was expecting something a little more with the ending as well. That being said, I still thought this one quite interesting and fun in subject matter and still very much love reading about the work of Gwen Marcey. Think I possibly spotted a hint in this book that a future book might take place in Maine, maybe? :-) I look forward to reading of her future cases (if there are to be any). I especially love when she gets into how she picks apart people's "tells", through speech or body language, that alert her to liars. I look forward to reading about her sassy self once again... and hopefully something more of Blake! 


FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 




My reviews for the previous books in the series:


A Cry From The Dust (Gwen Marcey #1)


The Bones Will Speak (Gwen Marcey #2)


and although not directly related to this series, the Gwen Marcey character also makes a brief appearance in Colleen Coble's novel, Mermaid Moon