After reading Julia Spencer-Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter, I was hooked on the crime-busting team of Clare Ferguson, Episcopal priest and former Army helicopter pilot, with her foil and possible love interest, police chief Russ Van Alstyne. Following the advice of the friend who introduced me to the series, I’ve been reading the books in order of publication – although I am tempted to jump to the end to find out how the brewing romance between the Rev. Clare and Chief Russ (married to someone else) turns out.
The second in the series – A Fountain Filled With Blood – has the intrepid team following a trail of homophobic murders in the small upstate New York town of Millers Kill. Three murders, and Clare keeps getting the leads to suspects that she happily passes on to the Chief – when she’s not busy organizing candlelight vigils or offering pre-marital counseling.
Spencer-Fleming maintains the suspense with gory bodies, likely suspects and clever banter, but also offers some humor: Clare hiding behind a shower curtain and jumping out the bathroom window to avoid being caught snooping. She later redeems her flaky behavior with a daring helicopter rescue that reads like watching a good action flick. And the mastermind to all the murders is not who you think – Spencer-Fleming keeps you guessing to the end.
Mrs. Van Alstyne makes an appearance in this book, but it’s not the Chief’s wife; it’s his feisty seventy-year-old mother. And the possibilities between Russ and Clare just keep simmering…
Of course, I had to immediately continue with the next installment – Out of the Deep I Cry – a year later and Chief Russ and Rev. Clare now have a regular lunch date. Spencer-Fleming always uses a current issue to wrap around her murders: abandoned babies, gay rights, environmental pollution. This time the controversy is over baby inoculations, missing husbands, and shady money. Spencer-Fleming, once again, mixes the right formula of suspense and realistic characters to keep the plot flowing with surprises up to the final pages, tapping into the town’s history to solving the puzzle.
And the simmer between her two main characters? They finally kiss.
I’ve already ordered the next two books in the series from the library: To Darkness and to Death; All Mortal Flesh. I can’t wait…
- In the Bleak Midwinter (nochargebookbunch.com)