In the Bleak Midwinter (Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Series #1)

( 213 )


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 ...

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In the Bleak Midwinter (Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Series #1)

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

One of the most impressive "first" crime novels I've read. A priest, a cop, a baby on the doorstep, and a lot of snow combined with suspenseful results for one great book.

-Charlaine Harris, author of Shakespeare's Counselor

Don't miss this one! You'll be rooting for Clare Fergusson in this engaging and vital mystery.

-April Henry, author of the Claire Montrose mysteries and Learning to Fly

Denver Rocky Mountain News

Fleming hits a grand slam with In the Bleak Midwinter. The tension is constant. The dialogue is dead-on. The characters are interesting, thought provoking, and honest. The prose soars above the quality usually found in this genre. To top it all off, the story twists and turns to the last page.
Romantic Times

Compelling...many twists.
Midwest Book Review

Filled with many twists and turns...[a] warm tale.
author of the Face Down Mysteries Kathy Lynn Emerson

Julia Spencer-Fleming is already a winner, but she deserves a triple crown. In a strong, distinctive voice, she sets her characters down In the Bleak Midwinter and pits them against public murder, personal demons, and the power of nature itself.
Library Journal
This is the first of three engaging mysteries featuring Episcopal priest Clare Ferguson, newly appointed rector of St. Alban's Church in the upstate New York village of Millers Kill. Shortly before Christmas, an infant is left on the steps of St. Alban's with a note indicating that the baby should be given to a specific couple in the congregation. Clare sees the abandonment as a way to begin a mission project to help unwed mothers, but her enthusiasm is rebuffed by the senior warden of the socially conservative church vestry, a retired army colonel. Suspicion mounts when the child's mother, an 18-year-old college student from the wrong side of the tracks, is found dead. Clare joins Millers Kill police chief Russ Van Alstyne in the search for the murderer. There are as many slippery twists and turns as there are on the snowy Adirondack mountain roads that Clare must negotiate. Narrator Suzanne Toren handles all the voices deftly, giving just a touch of Southern accent to the Virginia-born Clare; her pacing captures the mounting tension perfectly. An excellent selection. Nann Blaine Hilyard, Zion-Benton P.L., IL nonfiction Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312986766
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/14/2003
  • Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Series, #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 371,558
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.82 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Spencer-Fleming was born at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base and spent most of her childhood on the move as an Army brat. She lives in a 180-year-old farmhouse outside of Portland, Maine, with her husband, three children, and beloved big dog.

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Read an Excerpt



It was one hell of a night to throw away a baby. The cold pinched at Russ Van Alstyne’s nose and made him jam his hands deep into his coat pockets, grateful that the Washington County Hospital had a police parking spot just a few yards from the ER doors. A flare of red startled him, and he watched as an ambulance backed out of its bay silently, lights flashing. The driver leaned out of his window, craning to see his way between cement rails.

"Kurt! Hey! Anything for me?"

The driver waved at Russ. "Hey, Chief. Nope. Heart attack stabilized and heading for Glens Falls. You heard about the baby?"

"That’s why I’m here."

Kurt continued to back out, almost to the end of the parking lot. "Jesum, hard to imagine sumpin’ like that here in Millers Kill—" The rest of his commentary was lost as he heeled the ambulance into the road. Russ waved, then pushed open the antiquated double doors to the emergency department.

His glasses fogged up within seconds in the moist heat of the foyer. He pulled off the wire frames and rubbed them with the end of his scarf, mentally cursing the myopia that had finally led him, at forty-eight, to cave in and wear the damn things full time. His stomach ached and his knee was bothering him and for a moment he wished he had taken that security consulting job in Phoenix like his wife had wanted.

"Hey! Chief!" A blurry form in brown approached him. Russ tucked his glasses over his ears and Mark Durkee, one of his three night-shift officers, snapped into focus. As usual, the younger man was spit-and-polished within an inch of his life, making Russ acutely aware of his own non-standard-issue appearance: wrinkled wool pants shoved into salt-stained hunting boots, his oversized tartan muffler clashing with his regulation brown parka. Hell, Mark was probably too young to get a cold neck, even with the back of his head shaved almost bald.

"Hey, Mark," Russ said. "Talk to me."

The officer waved his chief down the drab green hallway toward the emergency room. The place smelled of disinfectant and bodies, with a whiff of cow manure left over by the last farmer who had come in straight from the barn. "Man, it’s like something out of an old Bing Crosby movie, Chief. The priest at Saint Alban’s found the little guy bundled up at the door of the church. The doctor’s checking him out now."

"How’s the baby look?"

"Fine, as far as they can tell. He was wrapped up real well, and the doc says he probably wasn’t out in the cold more’n a half hour or so." Russ’s sore stomach eased up. He’d seen a lot over the years, but nothing shook him as much as an abused child. He’d had one baby-stuffed-in-a-garbage-bag case when he’d been an MP in Germany, and he didn’t care to ever see one again.

Mark and Russ nodded to the admissions nurse standing guard between the ER waiting room and the blue-curtained alcove where patients got their first look-see. "Evening, Alta," Russ said. "How’s business?" The waiting room, decorated with swags of tired tinsel and a matching silver tree, was empty except for a teenager sprawled over one of the low sofas.

"Slow," the nurse said, buzzing them into the emergency treatment area. "Typical Monday night." The old linoleum floors carried the rattle of gurney wheels and the squeak of rubber-soled shoes.

"Over there," Mark said, pointing. Framed by limp white curtains dangling from ceiling tracks, an athletic-looking woman in gray sweats was leaning on a plastic incubator, writing in a pocket-sized notebook.

"Who the hell’s that?" Russ asked. "I swear, if they let a reporter in here before we’ve cleared the facts I’ll—" he strode toward the incubator. "Hey, you," he said.

His challenge brought the woman’s chin up, and she snapped her head around, zeroing in on the two policemen. She was plain, no makeup and nondescript dark blond hair scraped back in a ponytail. She had that overbred look he associated with rich women from the north side of town: high cheekbones and a long thin nose that was perfect for looking down at folks. Mark grabbed his arm, grinning. "No, no. That’s the priest, Chief." He laughed out loud at the expression on Russ’s face. The priest? Christ on a bicycle. She gave Russ a look that said, "Wanna make something of it?" He felt himself coloring. Her eyes were the only exceptional thing about her, true hazel, like granite seen under green water.

"Officer Durkee," she said, her gaze sliding off Russ as if she had already weighed and found him wanting. "Any word yet from the Department of Human Services?" There was the barest trace of a Southern accent in her no-nonsense voice.

"No, ma’am," Mark said, rocking back and forth on his heels. "But I’d expect that. They got a lot of ground to cover around here, and not many people to cover it with." He was still grinning like a greased hyena.

Russ decided the best defense was a good offense. "I’m Russell Van Alstyne, Millers Kill chief of police." He held out his hand. She shook firm, like a guy.

"Clare Fergusson," she said. "I’m the new priest at Saint Alban’s. That’s the Episcopal Church. At the corner of Elm and Church." There was a faint testiness in her voice. Russ relaxed a fraction. A woman priest. If that didn’t beat all.

"I know which it is. There are only four churches in town." He saw the fog creeping along the edges of his glasses again and snatched them off, fishing for a tissue in his pocket. "Can you tell me what happened, um . . ." What was he supposed to call her? "Mother?"

"I go by Reverend, Chief. Ms. is fine, too."

"Oh. Sorry. I never met a woman priest before."

"We’re just like the men priests, except we’re willing to pull over and ask directions."

A laugh escaped him. Okay. He wasn’t going to feel like an unwashed heathen around her.

"I was leaving the church through the kitchen door in the back, which is sunken below street level. There are stairs rising to a little parking area, tucked between the parish hall and the rectory, not big, just room enough for a couple cars. I was going for a run." She looked down and waggled one sneaker-shod foot. Her sweatshirt read ARMY. "The box was on the steps. I thought maybe someone had left off a donation at first, because all I could see were the blankets. When I picked it up, though, I could feel something shifting inside." She looked through the plastic into the incubator, shaking her head. "The poor thing was so still when I unwrapped him I thought he was already dead." She looked up at Russ. "Imagine how troubled and desperate someone would have to be to leave a baby out in the cold like that."

Russ grunted. "Anything else that might give us an idea of who left him there?"

"No. Just the baby, and the blankets, and the note inside."

Russ frowned at Mark. "You didn’t tell me about any note," he said.

The officer shrugged, pulling a glassine envelope out of his jacket pocket. "Reverend Fergusson didn’t mention it until after I had called you," he explained. He handed Russ the plastic-encased paper.

"That’s my fault, yeah," said the priest, not sounding at all apologetic. Russ held the clear envelope at arm’s length to get a better view. "I didn’t call DHS until I was over here, and I wanted to make sure they knew what the baby’s parents intended." She looked over his arm at the note. "I’m sorry, but I handled it without thinking about any fingerprints or anything."

It was an eight-by-eleven sheet of paper ripped from a spiral-bound notebook, the kind that you could get anywhere. The handwriting, in blue ink, was blocky, extremely child-like. Russ guessed that the note’s author had held the pen in her left hand to disguise her printing. "This is our baby, Cody," it read. "Please give him to Mr. and Mrs. Burns here at St. Alban’s. We both agree they should have him, so there won’t be any trouble later on with the adoption. Tell our baby we love him."

Russ lowered the note and met the priest’s green-brown eyes. "Kids," he said.

"That would be my guess," she said.

"Who are the Burnses?"

"Geoffrey and Karen Burns."

"The lawyers," Russ said, surprised.

"They’re parishioners of St. Alban’s. I understand they’ve been seeking adoption for over two years now. They’ve been on the Prayers of the People list for the past two weeks, and as I recall, our secretary told me that’s a regular thing for them."

"This is something published? Or what?"

"Prayed out loud, every Sunday during the service."

He looked closely at her. "Sounds like at least one of the baby’s parents might go to your church."

She looked uncomfortable. "Yeah. Although I’m sure that everyone who knows the Burnses also knows they’re looking for a baby."

"Why leave it at St. Alban’s then? Why not on the Burnses’ doorstep?"

Reverend Fergusson swept her hands open wide.

Russ handed the note back to Mark. "What time did you find the baby?" he asked the priest.

"About . . . nine-thirty, quarter to ten," she said. "There was a welcoming reception from the vestry tonight that finished up around nine. I changed in my office, checked messages, and then headed out. I already gave Officer Durkee the names of the people who were there."

Russ squinted, trying for a mental picture of the area where Elm branched off the curve of Church Street. One of Tick Soley’s parking lots was across the street from the church, one light on the corner but nothing further up where the houses started. "What did you say was behind the little parking area?"

"The rectory, where I live. There’s a tall hedge, and then my side yard. My driveway is on the other side of the house."

Russ sighed. "The kids—the parents—could have parked in any one of those spots and snuck over to the stairs with the baby. I somehow doubt we’re gonna get an eyewitness with a license number and a description of the driver."

The priest tapped the glassine envelope. "Chief Van Alstyne, exactly how hard do you have to look for the parents of this baby?" For the first time Russ let himself take a long look into the portable incubator. The sleeping baby didn’t look any different from every other newborn he had ever seen, all fat burnished cheeks and almond-shaped eyes. He wondered how hard up or screwed up or roughed up a girl would have to be to pull a perfect little thing like that out of her body and then leave him in a cardboard box. In the dark. On a night when the windchill hovered at zero degrees.

He looked back at the priest. She was leaning toward him slightly, focusing on him as if he were the only person in the whole hospital. "I don’t need to tell you that leaving a baby like that is called endangering a child," he said. She nodded. "And of course, if we can’t find the parents, it’s going to take longer for DHS to actually get the baby out of foster care and into an adoptive home. But the thing is to find out how voluntary this really was, giving up the baby."

Her mouth opened and then snapped shut. He continued. "When a woman really wants to give up her kid for adoption, she usually gets in touch with an agency, or a lawyer, or somebody, well before the baby is born. These throwaway situations—"

"She didn’t throw Cody away. Whoever she is."

"No, she didn’t. Which makes me think it’s not one of those times when the mother is a druggie or a drunk or a psycho. But it does make me wonder if her boyfriend or her father forced her into it. And if she’s not already regretting what she did, but is too scared of us or of him to come forward and reclaim her son."

"I never thought of that," Reverend Fergusson said, biting her lower lip. "Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn’t have—"

The emergency room doors opened with a hydraulic pouf. Russ recognized the small, bearded man in the expensive topcoat and the striking brunette woman at his side, but he’d know who they were even if he had never seen them in the Washington County Courthouse before, just from the look on Reverend Fergusson’s face.

"We got here as soon as we could," Geoffrey Burns said. His voice was tight. His glance flicked around the treatment area, lighting on the incubator. His wife saw it at the same time.

"Oh . . ." she said, pressing one perfectly manicured hand to her mouth. "Oh. Is that him?"

The priest nodded. She stepped aside, allowing the Burnses a clear view of the sleeping baby. "Oh, Geoff, just look at him . . ." Karen Burns hesitated, as if showing too much eagerness might cause the incubator to vanish.

Her husband stared at the baby for a long moment. "Where’s the doctor who’s been treating him?" he said. He looked at Russ. "Chief Van Alstyne. I take it the Department of Human Services hasn’t seen fit to send anyone over yet."

"Mr. Burns." Russ nodded. "I expect we’ll see somebody soon. They’re a little overwhelmed over there, you know."

"Oh, don’t I just," Geoff Burns said.

"I take it Reverend Fergusson called you about the note that was found with the baby?" Russ glanced pointedly toward the priest, who lifted her chin in response. "You folks know that it’s way too early to start thinking of this boy as your own. No matter what the parents wrote."

Karen Burns turned toward him. "Of course, Chief. But we are licensed foster parents without any children in our home right now, and we intend to press DHS to place Cody with us." Mrs. Burns had a voice so perfectly modulated she could have been selling him something on the radio. Russ glanced at Burns, thin and short, and wondered at the attraction. His own wife was one hell of a good-looking woman, but Karen Burns would put her in the shade.

"Under the standard of the best interests of the child, it’s preferable that a pre-adoptive child be fostered with the would-be adoptive parents, if there are no natural relatives able to care for the child. Young v. The Department of Social Services."

Russ blinked at the lawyer’s aggressively set brows. "I’m not contesting you in court, Mr. Burns," he said. "But we don’t know that there aren’t any natural relatives. We don’t know if the mother gave him up of her own free will or not." He shifted his weight forward, deliberately using his six-foot-three-inches as a visual reminder of his authority here. "Isn’t it a little odd for a professional couple like you to be foster parents?"

Karen Burns laid her hand on her husband’s arm, cutting off whatever he was about to say. "I work from home as well as from my office, part time. On those times we’ve had a child in our care, I just cut way back."

"I assure you we’re properly licensed and have passed all the state requirements," Burns said, his face tight. "We are fully prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to care for a child. Unlike the biological parents of this boy."

Karen Burns twisted a single gold bangle around her wrist. "Of course you have to look for the parents, Chief Van Alstyne. And I’m sure that anyone who took such care to make sure their baby would be found immediately, and left a note asking us to be his adoptive parents, would only confirm that request."

Her husband spoke almost at the same time. "We intend to file for TPR immediately, on grounds of abandonment and endangerment." There was a pause. The Burnses looked at each other, then at Russ. They both spoke at once.

"I hope you do find her. She undoubtedly needs help and counseling."

"I hope you don’t find her, to be frank. It’ll be better for the baby all around."

Reverend Fergusson broke the awkward silence. "What’s TPR mean?"

"Termination of parental rights," Russ answered. "Usually happens after the court takes a DHS caseworker’s recommendation that there’s no way the child ought to go back to the parent. Takes months, sometimes years, if DHS is trying to reunite the family." He rubbed his forehead with the palm of his hand. "During which time the kid is in foster care."

"Unless, as in this case, the child is an abandoned infant and the parents can’t be found," Geoff Burns said, tapping his finger into his palm in time to his words.

"Uh huh," Russ agreed. "Unless they can’t be found."

Excerpted from In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Copyright 2007 by Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Published in March 2002 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

Questions provided by the reading group of St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, MI, courtesy of David Senecal

1. What do you think of Clare Fergusson as a person?

2. What do you think of Clare as a priest?

3. How does St. Alban's strike you as a parish? A place you'd want to be? A good match for Clare and its members?

4. What are your reactions to the re lationship between Clare and Russ?

5. What do you think of the setting of the story [In The Bleak Midwinter] and how it is described and used in the book? Have any of you travelled in the Adirondacks and be willing to share your impressions of the area?

6. Do you have a favorite character - or one you love to hate - in the story [other than Clare and Russ]?

7. What are your thoughts about the use of prayer in the book?

8. Do you think the book is successful as a mystery?

9. Is there a good balance between the plot, social and religious issues, and personal relationships in the book?

10. If MIDWINTER were made into a movie, what actors could you see playing Clare and Russ?

Questions provided by the mystery reading group of the South County Regional Library in Charlotte, NC, courtesy of Lawrence Turner

1. Is Clare Fergusson a realistic character (in regards to being a member of the clergy after year earlier being trained as an army pilot)?

2. Does the author give a strong sense of place/setting/community/use of dialogue in the book?

3. Did the author do a good job telling this story--is it involving, suspenseful, plausible?

4. Did the book leave you wanting to learn more about any character? Who?

5. Could this story have been the same if the absent Mrs. Russ Van Alystne was present?

6. Why does Clare continue to assist Russ in two criminal investigations--why is she so curious and assertive?

7. Why does Russ permit Clare to accompany him?

8. Clare and Russ work well together when following up on an abandoned baby case but run into some friction when pursuing a murderer--is this conflict to be expected?

9. Are there any instances in the book when foreshadowing is used?

10. Why is Clare's wardrobe important throughout the story (i.e., boots, clerical collar)?

11. What does Clare's car say about her or represent to her?

12. Could this story take place in another time period (say, even 25 years ago) and still be the same basic story? Would this story be as effective in another region of the country?

13. Is the book a cozy mystery? (for the unsure, cozy mysteries can be defined and then treatment of certain scenes and situations can be reviewed)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 213 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 214 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    One of the best mystery/thrillers I've read

    I absolutely loved this book. For the longest time I have been a fan of fantasy/paranormal fiction and now you can't throw a rock w/o hitting one. The whole genre has become,for the most part, boring and over played. So I started reading mysteries. This book is original. You don't pick it up and think this is just like this or just like that. I love how realistic the story line is and even the romance in the book is just enough to entice but not over done. After I read this book I ordered every single book in the rest of the series and if they're even half as good as this one I won't be disappointed. The only fault I can think of is on the B&N website they don't list the order of the series which can make it kind of confusing if you're wanting to read them in order...
    Here it is if you're wondering.
    * In the Bleak Midwinter
    * A Fountain Filled With Blood
    * Out of the Deep I Cry
    * To Darkness and To Death
    * All Mortal Flesh
    * I Shall Not Want

    Read this book/series. I promise you its worth your time.

    57 out of 58 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 9, 2011

    Watch out - this series is addictive!

    Reading is my passion and I especially appreciate a book that sweeps me off my feet and into the story. Each and every volume in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson series did that and more. Clare, the lead female character, is a former helicopter pilot turned Episcopalian priest. (Yes, you read right!) She is deeply committed to her vocation, but she is unlike any minister you may have ever met in fiction or real life. Russ, the lead male character and chief of police, finds that Clare has a way of inserting herself into police business that drives him crazy in more ways than one. Clare, Russ, and all the supporting characters are very well developed, believable, and grow so much through the series. In fact, the author had me feeling as if I lived in the town and knew everyone as a neighbor or friend-- or perhaps a threat. Spencer-Fleming has managed to take romance, suspense, drama, humor, and mystery and serve them up in one tasty dish that keeps you wanting more. I've read a lot of trilogies. However, I rarely feel as enthusiastic about book #3 as I did about book #1. Usually when they're over, I'm ready for them to be over. That's why Spencer-Fleming amazed me! I read all seven books-- one after the other-- and now that I'm done I can't wait to see what happens next. That's unheard of for me. If there were seven more books in the series I'd download them on my Nook this minute. I highly recommend this book and the entire series to anyone who wants to make a deep connection with characters without tiring of them. You will not be disappointed. Ms. Spencer-Fleming: thank you for many hours of absolute enjoyment and escapism with lessons learned along the way. You are a gifted writer and story-teller!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I must confess...

    This book came highly recommended to me, and although I was very skeptical at first- I absolutely loved this book! The synopsis left much to be desired for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the plot and ending. I was completely put off by the idea of a female priest and thought this may end up being one of those religious works disguised as a mystery to bring me the word of God. Not the case at all! (thank goodness) what I got was an intelligent heroine and an intriguing mystery with some underlying tones of lust. Awesome book!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2002


    I was very impressed by this first offering from Julia Spencer-Fleming! Two interesting characters, a cop and an Episcopal priest, and a page-turner of a plot, made for an almost perfect mystery. I am curious to see what she will do with the relationship between the two characters, as one is married! I look forward to many more in this series.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    This was a good read!

    Stick with it very humourous in between suspense. Good tension between priest and sheriff. I thought this would make a good television seties or a lifetime movie or a tnt mystery movie. I will be purchasing the next book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2011

    Good ... with potential

    This is my first Spencer-Fleming mystery. My primary complaint is that "Father" Claire does too many things that are just silly, as a priest and as an amateur sleuth. I can't imagine a priest confronting as many of the church members/potential protagonists as she did -- otherwise, the idea of Claire as former chopper pilot and priest is a good one. Given the survival training she had as pilot, her inability to find the right footwear or clothing is a little silly. I do like her, and I like Russ if the author can rise above the expected and push this to the next level, it has the potential to be a series I'll look forward to reading.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    I really liked everything about this mystery! The writing flowed, the characters were unique, the ending was a surprise. I really liked that it was not primarily about romance and sex, but then, I'm an elderly reader. Believe it or not, soppy romance and explicit sex become tiresome after 70 years or so. I will look forward to coming books from this author. I did especially like that the main character was a strong, intelligent woman.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Good Book

    I was torn between giving this 4 or 5 stars. I liked the characters though they got a little hot and heavy on pretty short acquaintance considering one is a priest. Liked the writing. Good action scene. I thought it moved a little too slowly in the middle.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2012

    One hell of a ride

    Julia Spencer Fleming has created one of the most fun filled reads that I have experienced in ages!!! Her creations of the characters in the town of Millers Kill will keep you riveted to their trials and tribulations for many hours---Keep writing Julia

    Skip Hughes --- Grand Junction

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    Love this new series

    Very good mystery, well written, well developed characters. Look forward to #2.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012


    This book was better than I expected. It is a fast read with a good mystery and interesting characters. Parts were a bit predictable but that is forgivable. I will likely read more in this series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Great read

    Main characters were refreshingly realistic and fun. Can't wait to continue with the rest of the books.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2014

    Disappointed by the book general theme of the lady vicar

    It is an unlikely combo and unrealistic and we had lady vicars with unusual former professions and several that only stayed a year . this was not the first in series i read and by this one the grafic violence increased started to scan the others and gave up became too unpleasant constant angst with everyone lady vicars are often catholic girls who wanted to be priests and she does not seem to be anglo catholic enough to keeo to the sacraments which would keep her busy all day

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This was the first book that I've read from this author and wasn

    This was the first book that I've read from this author and wasn't particularly excited about the book.  I do plan to at least read the next
    book in the series to see if it jumps out at me more.  

    I actually listened to the audio book version, and was not too pleased with the narrator, Suzanne Torren.  I felt that there were way too
    many characters for just one narrator.  I also found it difficult to differentiate between the different characters, especially if two women
     or two men were talking at the same time, because the male voice was always the same, as was with the female voice, with a few

    I did enjoy the main characters, Russ and Claire.  They were very likable and easy to follow.  I am interested to see how this
    relationship will develop throughout the series.  

    As for the plot of the story, where do I begin?  I was <b>NOT</b>
    able to predict the ending until it happened, which is a great thing,
    however, I thought that it was long and drawn out.  I felt like it took a really long time to get to the heart of the book.  Once you got to
     that point, the story was great, but if it would have been much longer, I would have given up on the book.  The fact that the story
    became as good as it did about halfway through the book is the reason that I would like to proceed with the series.  Even though it
    took a long time to get to the main whodunit, I have high hopes for the next book to move along a little quicker!

    Overall, I didn't hate this book but I didn't love it.  I look forward to seeing if A Fountain of Blood takes the series up a notch! 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    A great start to a new mystery series!

    I very much enjoyed this: it is well written, has interesting characters (a female priest does the detecting!), a believable plot and a possibly burgeoning romance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Decent read

    Was an interesting read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    He stared at the tom. You killed Jayflight.... you killed my mate!!! He chased after Rabidsnarl and tackled him. He was filled with rage and he tore him apart. You killed you sister! My mate! He kept tearing at him. He eventually riped his throat out.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012


    Leafsong- o.o did not see that coming...

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book!

    I really like this book. Didn't know if I would. But once I started reading it could not put it down. This is the first in her sereis and the books just keep gettting better and better. I would recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    Highly recommended

    I really enjoyed this book. Clare, army person turned pastor, was very interesting and fun. An interesting relationship develops between the town police chief and Clare. The author kept me guessing until the end as to the murderer. I plan to read book #2 now.

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