Desert Isle Keeper
In the Bleak Midwinter
After hearing reviewers and readers alike rave about Ms. Spencer-Fleming’s mysteries featuring an ex-army female Episcopalian priest, I had to give it a go. And man oh man oh man. Was I ever hooked.
Meet Reverend Clare Fergusson – 35 years old, ex-Air Force, long dirty blond hair that’s she’s always twisting into a bun, compulsively caring, and intelligent. Her faith called her from the army and into the seminary, landing her in the town of Millers Kill, in the New York Adirondacks, for which she is woefully unprepared in her red MG and suede city boots. Three weeks into her new duties, on a cold December eve, a baby is left on the doorstep of the church and the police are brought in to investigate.
Meet Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne – 48, myopic blue eyes, ex-Military Police. He’s an ex-local come back after twenty-five years in the army and has been head honcho for five years. This new priest throws him for a loop, because not only does she end up entangled in the investigation, they quickly become very good friends. Problem is, he’s married.
At this point I’m supposed to do is tell you more about the plot, setting, characters and all that. But, frankly, I’m very loathe to do so, partially because I don’t know where to start. The plot, characters, and setting are inextricably, indelibly, yet so delicately linked together that I can’t describe one with the others, and one of the greatest pleasures of this book is allowing developments to unfold gradually. I wallowed in it.
But come on. Who am I kidding? The real draw to Ms. Spencer-Fleming’s series are Clare and Russ, two of the most fascinating, complex, troubled, and deserving protagonists I’ve ever read. Those looking for quick answers and full back-stories won’t find them here; as with the rest of the book, Clare and Russ come with difficult histories (much of which remain hidden for the time being), and there are no easy answers. They are almost complete antitheses of each other, yet it’s clear from the beginning that they are the real deal: One hundred percent, indivisible, interlocking soul mates for life. How they reconcile this with their situations and temperaments is a story I cannot wait to follow.
By now I’ve devoured – no, inhaled – all six books in the series in such a short period of time I’m ashamed to even tell you how quickly I read them. But the first book sticks out in my mind as having beautifully and evocatively introduced one small town police department, innumerable interesting secondary characters, and a couple I will follow to the very end.