Synopsis (Publisher): Clare Fergusson, St. Alban’s new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Miller’s Kill, New York. She is not just a “lady”; she’s a tough ex-Army chopper pilot, and nobody’s fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who’s also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby’s mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Miller’s Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other – and murder….
My take: In the Bleak Midwinter is an absorbing mystery filled with interesting characters – some who may or may not be suspects in the murder of a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks. Other crimes follow that are connected to the abandoned baby and further involve Rev. Clare and Chief Russ in their search to solve the crimes.
Clare is an interesting primary character. She’s the new Episcopal priest in a small town where everyone knows everyone – and they talk. She needs to prove herself capable of leading St. Alban’s and, at the same time, remain true to herself. As far as her relationship with the Chief goes, he’s married but seems to genuinely like Clare. They “get” each other so it’s not surprising when they become confidants. It will be interesting to see where their friendship goes over the course of the series.
I live in the North and found that reading this book in February (there’s a lot of snow on the ground and temps have been frigid) it was easy to sympathize with Clare as she acclimates to the cold, wintery weather of New York. Having grown up in the South she has inadequate clothes but hasn’t had time to shop. My feet were cold when hers were and I wished I could loan her my down duffle coat and insulated boots. I guess my point is that the author’s detailed setting and character descriptions greatly enhanced my reading experience. The pace of the novel was good and I loved how the denouement played out.
I see there are seven books in the series (so far) with another due out near the end of 2013. I look forward to reading the second book. If you enjoy small town mysteries with interesting characters you might want to try the Rev. Clare & Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. I’m glad I did!
- Title: In the Bleak Midwinter – Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries series, #1
- Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
- Genre: Mystery
- Published: April 2010 – Minotaur Books
- Source: I bought it