Thursday, August 8, 2019

Book Review: In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the Bleak Midwinter
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (Book 1)
Publication: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (March 14, 2003)

Description: Heavy Snow...Icy Desires...Cold-Blooded Murder

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban's new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers 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 Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other―and murder...

In the Bleak Midwinter was Julia Spencer-Fleming's first novel, and it won a Macavity Award, an Agatha Award, an Anthony Award, and a Dilys Award.

My Thoughts: This multi-award winning mystery introduces Clare Fergusson who is the new priest at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Millers Kill, New York. Clare is an ex-Army helicopter pilot. When a baby is found left at the doorstop of her new church, Clare gets involved in trying to find the baby's mother.

Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne is also on the case. Like Clare, he is former Army who has come home to Millers Kill after his service. When the hunt for the baby's mother leads to a young woman found dead at the verge of the kill, the story gets more complicated.

The story doesn't get any clearer when the young woman (Katie) is identified as a resident of one of the poorer parts of town who had won a scholarship to a nearby university and should have been there. Also complicating things is a note in the box with the baby offering him to a couple of church members who had long been trying for a child. No one can figure out Katie's connection to the church and no one knows who the father of the baby is.

Katie's sister identifies the body and accuses her father of the murder. After all, he abused her for years until she could graduate from high school and get away from him. He sounds like a great suspect until he too is found murdered.

While Clare and Russ are investigating, they develop a strong friendship based both on their backgrounds and their current loneliness. The relationship could be edging into a romance but for the fact the Russ is married.

The writing was compelling and certainly didn't give any indication that this was a first novel. The pacing was great and the mystery complex. The story was filled with tension beyond Russ and Clare's personal relationship.

I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more in the series.

Favorite Quote:
"It would be nice if you could have told me it was 'a left-handed man under five-feet-six who pumps iron, wielding a barbell,' but I'll work with whatever you give me."

"You don't want a pathologist, you want a game of Clue. It was Miss Scarlet, in the Conservatory, with a candlestick."
I bought this one March 27, 2009. You can buy your copy here.

1 comment:

  1. Second review this week of this intriguing book. I like the characters. Sparks will fly.


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