A Fountain Filled With Blood: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery

A Fountain Filled With Blood: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery

by Julia Spencer-Fleming

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In In the Bleak Midwinter, Julia Spencer-Fleming's Malice Domestic-winning first mystery, Reverend Clare Fergusson was quickly introduced to a more eventful life than she had expected after moving to the small town of Millers Kill in upstate New York. But the Episcopal priest and former Army Air Force chopper pilot proved to her flock—and to police chief Russ Van Alstyne—that she could cope with the unexpected, even when it was as dire as murder. In this new adventure for the two ill-matched friends (who are gamely resisting something beyond friendship), evidence shows that a small town can hold just as much evil as the Wicked City.

The Chicago Tribune says "[Spencer-Fleming] pulls it off again" in A Fountain Filled With Blood.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429909068
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Series: Fergusson/Van Alstyne Mysteries , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 25,968
File size: 442 KB

About the Author

Julia Spencer-Fleming's first book, In the Bleak Midwinter, won the 2001 St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Contest for Best First Traditional Mystery. Born on Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Julia spent most of her childhood on the move as an Army brat. She studied acting and history at Ithaca College, and received her JD at the University of Maine School of Law. She lives in a 180-year-old farmhouse outside of Portland, Maine.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING is The New York Times bestselling author of One Was A Soldier, and an Agatha, Anthony, Dilys, Barry, Macavity, and Gumshoe Award winner. She studied acting and history at Ithaca College and received her J.D. at the University of Maine School of Law. Her books have been shortlisted for the Edgar, Nero Wolfe, and Romantic Times RC awards. Julia lives in a 190-year-old farmhouse in southern Maine.

Read an Excerpt

A Fountain Filled with Blood

By Julia Spencer-Fleming

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Julia Spencer-Fleming
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0906-8


The yahoos came by just after the dinner party broke up. A few young punks — three or four, picked out as streaks of white in the cab and bed of an unremarkable-looking pickup. Emil Dvorak was tucking a bottle of wine under his arm and reaching to shake his hosts' hands when he heard the horn haloowing down the Five Mile Road like a redneck hunting cry, and the truck flashed into view of the inn's floodlights.

"Faggots!" several voices screamed. "Burn in hell!" More obscene slurs were swallowed up in the night as the truck continued past. From their run in the back, the inn's dogs began barking in response, high-pitched and excited.

"Goddamn it," Ron Handler said.

"Did you see the license plate this time?" Stephen Obrowski asked.

His partner shook his head. "Too fast. Too dark."

"Has this happened before?" Emil shifted the bottle under his other arm. The inn's outdoor spotlight left him feeling suddenly exposed, his car brilliantly illuminated, his hosts' faces clearly visible, as his must have been. His hand, he noticed, was damp. "Have you reported it?"

"It started a couple of weeks ago," Steve said. "Probably kids let out of high school."

"Released from county jail, more likely," Ron said.

"We've told the police. The inn's on the random-patrol list now."

"Not that that helps," Ron said. "The cops have better things to do than catch gay-bashers out cruising for a good time. The only reason we got a few drive-bys in a patrol car is that the inn is bringing in the precious turista dollar."

"Tourism keeps Millers Kill afloat," Emil said, "but Chief Van Alstyne's a good man. He wouldn't tolerate that trash, no matter what business they were targeting."

"I better call the station and let them know we've been harassed again. Thank God our guests have already retired." Ron squeezed Emil's upper arm. "Thanks for coming. I'm sorry the evening had to end on such a sour note." He disappeared behind the inn's ornate double door.

Steve peered up the road. "Are you going to be okay getting back home? I don't like the idea of you all alone on the road with those thugs out there."

Emil spread his arms. "Look at me. I'm a middle-aged guy driving a Chrysler with M.D. plates. What could be more mainstream?" He dropped his hand on Steve's shoulder and shook him slightly. "I'll be fine. Anyone comes after me, I'll break his head open with this fine Chardonnay."

"Don't you dare. That bottle's worth more than you on the open market."

Emil laughed as they made their good-nights. Tucking the bottle under the passenger seat of his Le Baron convertible, he considered putting the top back up. He sighed. He knew he was getting old when a couple of drunken kids yelling out of the darkness could make him this nervous. To hell with them. It wasn't worth a twenty-minute struggle with the roof or missing fresh air blowing around him on a hot June night.

The high-Victorian architecture of the inn dwindled behind him as he drove east on Five Mile Road. He turned right onto Route 121, two country lanes bordered on one side by Millers Kill, the river that gave the town its name, and by dairy farms and cornfields on the other. In the dark of the new moon, the maples and sycamores lining the sides of the road were simply shades of gray on black, so the round outline of his headlights, picking out the violent green of the summer leaves, made him think of scuba diving in the Caribbean, black blinkers around his peripheral vision, gloom and color ahead.

Twin blurs of red and white darted into view, and for a second his mind saw coral fish. He blinked, and they resolved themselves into rear lights. Backing into the road, slewing sidewise. Christ! He slammed on his brakes and instinctively jerked the wheel to the right, knowing a heartbeat too late that was wrong, wrong, wrong as the car sawed around in a swooping tail-forward circle and crunched to a stop with a jolt that whipsawed Dvorak's head from the steering wheel to his seat.

The smell of the Chardonnay was everywhere, sickening in its excess. Steve would kill him for breaking that bottle. His ears rang. He drew a deep breath and caught it, stopped by the ache in his chest. Contusion from the shoulder restraint. He touched the back of his neck. Probably cervical strain, as well. Behind him, some awful hip-hop nonsong thumped over a gaggle of voices. He turned off the engine. Better go see if anyone needed any medical attention before he took down the driver's insurance and sued him into next week. The idiot.

A door thumped shut at the same time he heard the hard flat thwack of shoes or boots hitting the macadam. Glass crunched. "Look what we got!" A young man's voice, taut with excitement. "We caught us a faggot!" Another thump, more crunching, several whoops almost drowning out the stifling beat of the bass. Dvorak's hand froze on the door handle. The idiot. He was the idiot. He lunged for his cell phone, had the power on, and actually hit a nine and a one before the blow hit across his forearm, tumbling the phone from his grasp and making him gasp from the flaring pain. A long arm reached down to scoop the phone off the passenger seat.

There were hands on his jacket, tugging him sideways, and he watched as the cell phone arced through the edge of his headlights into the thick young corn. "Queerbait! You like to suck dick? You like little boys?" He twisted against the hands, groping for his car keys, his heart beating twice as fast as the sullen song, thinking he could still get out of this, still get away, until one of them hit him in the temple hard; supraorbital fracture, the part of him that could never stop being a doctor thought as his vision grayed and the key ring jingled out of reach.

In front of him, the headlights illuminated a swath of achingly green corn, cut off from the shoulder of the road by a sagging fence of barbed wire twisted around rough posts. His door was yanked open, and he wanted to think of Paul, to think of his children, but the only thing in his head was how the fence looked like the one on the cover of Time, like the one Matthew Shepard died on, and he was going to die now, too, and it was going to hurt more than anything.

"C'mere, faggot," one of them said as he was dragged from his seat. And the pain began.


"This stuff is going to kill us all!"

"Why are we having this meeting? This problem was supposed to have been resolved back in 'seventy-seven."

"I want to know if my grandchildren are safe!"

The mayor of Millers Kill squeezed the microphone base as if he could choke off the rising babel with one hand. "People, please. Please! Let's try to keep some sense of order here! I know it's hot and I know you're worried. Skiff and I will answer your questions the best we can. Meanwhile, sit down, raise your hand, and wait your turn." Jim Cameron glared at his constituents until the more excitable ones grudgingly lowered themselves back into their overly warm metal folding chairs.

The Reverend Clare Fergusson, priest of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, slid sideways an inch in her own chair. She had come to her first aldermen's meeting with the nursing director of the Millers Kill Infirmary, and though she was glad for the expert commentary, Paul Foubert was a good six four and close to three hundred pounds. Not only did he spread across his undersized chair onto hers but he also radiated heat. She pulled at her clerical collar in a useless attempt to loosen it. She was sitting next to a giant hot-water bottle on the last and stickiest night of June. In a meeting that had already gone on an hour longer than planned.

"Yes. The chair recognizes Everett Daniels."

A gangly, balding man stood up. "Back in 'seventy-six when they started making such a flap about PCBs, we were told we didn't have anything to worry about because we were upstream from the factories in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls where they used the stuff. Are you telling us it's now migrating up the Hudson and into Millers Kill?"

"They did find elevated levels of PCBs in our river, Everett. Obviously, water doesn't flow backward. But we are awful close to the core contamination sites, and our river joins up with the Hudson just a couple miles from where we're sitting. The DEP folks don't know yet if the stuff is coming into the Kill from the wetlands or groundwater or what."

A woman's voice cracked through the air. "Why don't you tell the truth? The stuff is coming from that damn storage dump we allowed in the quarry back in nineteen seventy! And that new resort development is bringing up the chemical and letting it run straight downhill into town land!"

"Mrs. Van Alstyne, I asked that everyone raise a hand to be recognized!"

Clare jerked in her seat. The only Van Alstyne she knew in town was Russ Van Alstyne, the chief of police. His wife, Linda, was supposed to be gorgeous. Clare made a futile swipe at the damp pieces of hair that had fallen out of her twist and craned her neck for a better view.

A woman in her early seventies stood, sturdy as a fireplug and so short, her tightly permed white hair barely cleared the heads of the people sitting around her. Clare tried to see around the people sitting near the woman. She couldn't see anyone who could be Linda Van Alstyne.

"I was saying it back in 'seventy and I'll say it now: Allowing that PCB dump was a big mistake. They said it was airtight and leakproof and they waved a chunk of money in front of the town council until the aldermen rolled over and said yes. Then they put the blasted thing in the old shale quarry, even though a high school geology teacher, which you were at the time, Jim Cameron, could have told them shale was a highly permeable rock!" She turned her head to address her neighbors. "That means it leaks!"

"I protested against it, too, Mrs. Van Alstyne," the mayor said.

Clare's mental fog cleared away. That wasn't Russ's wife. "It's his mother," she said under her breath. Paul Foubert looked at her curiously. She felt her cheeks grow warmer.

"The state cleaned up that site in 'seventy-nine," Mayor Cameron continued. "Last tests show traces of PCB in the quarry, but they're at acceptable levels."

"Of course they are! The blasted stuff leaked away into the bedrock. Now along comes BWI Development and gives us the same song and dance, this time promising lots of money from the tourists and lots of jobs, and what does the Planning Board do? Roll over and hand 'em a permit to start plowing and blasting over fifty acres of Landry property. It's been three months they've been working, and suddenly we find PCBs in the Dewitt Elementary playground. This stuff causes cancer, and it's in our playground!"

"Can we just stop the hysterics and stick to the facts!" An angular blond woman stood near the front row. In contrast to the Wednesday-night casual dress of the rest of the crowd, her suit was so sharply cut, it looked bulletproof. "Before we ever started construction, we had to get a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. It took them two years to grant it. Two years! They tested the quarry. They tested the water. They tested the damn trees, for all I know. The PCBs are at acceptable levels at the resort site. Acceptable. Levels. There may be more of the stuff in the river, but there's no reason to act as if my property is some sort of Love Canal!"

"Damn it, Peggy, will you just wait your turn!"

She rounded on the mayor. "I came here tonight because I was told there was a motion to suspend construction due to the so-called PCB crisis." She pointed toward the aldermen's table. "My property was certified by the DEP. I have provided you with their environmental- impact statements, which, if you bother to read them, clearly say the development is within parameters approved by New York State. I have also provided you with copies of our zoning approval and our construction permits. Which documents you, gentlemen, issued only six months ago!"

The mayor turned away from the microphone and leaned over the wide wooden table. The four aldermen shoved in closer to hear whatever it was he was saying. They were shuffling papers like blackjack dealers. Clare nudged Paul. "Who's the woman?" she whispered.

"Peggy Landry. She owns a huge chunk of land northwest of the town. She's been trying to develop it for years, but she never had the wherewithal to do anything more than plow a few roads in. The only money she made off it came from paintball groups and back-to-nature nuts. You know, people who scoff at amenities like toilets, showers, or cleared land for pitching tents." He rolled his eyes. "She got a group out of Baltimore interested in the parcel a year or so ago. Before you came. They do spas, luxury resorts, that sort of thing. It was big news at the time because of the prospect of jobs for the town, of course. I didn't realize they had already —"

Jim Cameron straightened up. "Application papers of Landry Properties, Inc., and BWI Development, a limited partnership," he read from a sheaf of papers in his hand. "Okay, Peggy, the town isn't going to suspend your construction permits." Several in the crowd yelled angrily at this. Several others cheered. The mayor frowned. "Keep it down! Look, our lawyer tells us we don't have the authority to stop properly permitted projects unless the state rules they are, in fact, violating DEP standards."

"What about the possible release of more contaminants by the development?" Mrs. Van Alstyne asked. "How much of that poison is stored in the rock, waiting to be let out when they start blasting? Anything they let loose is going to wash straight down the mountain and into the town and the river!"

"Who's going to pay for the cleanup?" someone asked from the crowd. "Seems like the Landrys will be making a pretty penny and we'll be left holding the bill."

Jim Cameron held up his hands. "People, if we can't stick to the rules of order, I'm calling this whole meeting off!"

A man stood up next to Peggy Landry, who was glaring at Mrs. Van Alstyne with enough venom to have caused a lesser woman to collapse back into her seat. "Mr. Mayor? May I say a few words?"

The mayor looked pathetically grateful that someone was recognizing Robert's Rules. "Yes. The chair recognizes ..."

"Bill Ingraham. BWI Development." Cameron gestured to him to continue. Ingraham was thickly set, of middle height and middle years, with the sunburnt skin of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors. He looked more like a plumbing contractor than the developer of a luxury spa to Clare's eye, but then, she had never really met any luxury-spa developers. "My partner and I — stand up, John, and let the folks here get a look at you." A smartly dressed corporate type stood, waved unenthusiastically, and vanished back into his seat. "John and I are here to create a new resort, the best cross between the old Adirondack mountain retreats and an up-to-the-minute health spa. We want to build this because we think it'll make us a whole lot of money." There was a snort of laughter, quickly stifled, from the crowd. "I also think it'll make your town a whole lot of money, because we see this as a destination resort, not a place to stay overnight while your visitor heads over to Saratoga during the day. This is gonna mean money spent in your town and jobs for people who live here, year-round jobs, because this is gonna be a year-round resort." There was a scattering of applause across the town hall. "John and I are putting our money where our mouth is in more ways than one. We're sponsoring the Fourth of July road race this year, and we've got plans for a ski meet at one of the local mountains this winter. Eventually, we want to support a special event in each of the four seasons." He rubbed his hands together theatrically. "Give those tourists a little incentive to get into town and loosen their purse strings."


Excerpted from A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Copyright © 2003 Julia Spencer-Fleming. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Fountain Filled with Blood (Clare Fergusson Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a good second installment in a series featuring a reverend and police chief. The crimes being investigated in this case are a series of hate crimes. There is certainly a lot of action in the book. It was a good read.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I thoroughly enjoy the well written books. I re-read them every few years
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: The yahoos came by just after the dinner party broke up.Small towns have a reputation for being quiet and safe that's not always deserved. The same holds true for Millers Kill, New York. The Fourth of July weekend brings a spate of vicious attacks that have Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne reeling-- not only because of the brutality but because the victims seem to have been chosen because they're gay.When the third attack on an out-of-town developer ends in murder, Clare and Russ begin thinking outside the box. Could these attacks be connected to the murder victim's plan to open an upscale spa outside of town? What Clare and Russ don't know is that their thinking is going to lead them straight into danger.It hasn't been that long since I read-- and fell in love with-- the first book in this series, In the Bleak Midwinter. I wasn't even halfway through that book when I began ordering all the rest of the volumes in the series. I honestly try to pace myself through series, especially when they're as good as this one started out being. After all, the faster I gobble them up, the longer I'll have to wait for the next book to be published. However, I don't feel quite so guilty about reading A Fountain Filled With Blood so soon after the first. You see... I told my husband about In the Bleak Midwinter, and as of the writing of this review, he's already finished all the books in the series. When he found out I was only on the second book, two words came to mind to describe his facial expression: "cat" and "canary."As I read this book, I see that Clare and I are doomed to disagree about her choice of transportation, but as long as her choice doesn't put her life in danger again, I'll just smile and shake my head. One of the things about this series that has grabbed me by the throat is the sheer power of Spencer-Fleming's characterizations. Clare and Russ are real. I catch myself talking to them as I read. (This time I remember yelling, "Check the helicopter!" several times.) They have wonderful senses of humor. They make mistakes and wonder how they're going to make things right. And neither one is about to stand idly by when someone is in trouble. A Fountain Filled With Blood shows both of these characters in action: Russ in his protective police chief best, and Clare putting her Army helicopter pilot training to good use.I know I've been praising the characters in this book to the skies, but that's not the only good thing to be found. Spencer-Fleming provides some excellent misdirection throughout as to the true motivations behind the crimes. I didn't put all the pieces together until the action was gearing up for the grand finale.As much as I've enjoyed the first two books in this series, I'm going to make myself slow down. I don't want to be a whiner, impatiently waiting for the next book to be published. And if you haven't read any of Julia Spencer-Fleming's books, I have only one question for you: What on earth are you waiting for?
ethel55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A return to Millers Kill during a hot Fourth of July weekend also brings violence to this small town, showing once again that big city problems are never far away. Several brutal attacks, one ending in death, bring Clare and Chief Van Alstyne together again in another wonderfully written mystery. The two have their own way of looking at things, which is explored much more in this second book in the series. Clare's sense of right and social justice (and perhaps that army background) have her looking before she leaps, while Russ is the ever methodical policeman. The eventual meeting between Clare and Russ's mom Margy, brings forth another great secondary character. I wasn't always comfortable with the violence, which is mostly off-stage, but still managed to get inside my head. Spencer-Fleming writes so well, I was thoroughly immersed in the whole story.
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reverend Clare Ferguson is the central character in this murder mystery. Since she is always trying to help her flock as well as learn a bit more about what's going on the town of Miller's Kill, Clare is in the middle of just about all the action. The town is divided by the possible impact of the new spa that is being constructed - some are anxious to have the jobs and business expansion, others are worried about the environmental impact of the facility. How does a minister get into the middle of these situations? You'd be surprised and as well as entertained as to how she does it. I am really looking forward to reading more of Clare's adventures with her flock. A great series so far - hope that it just gets better and better.
Lizparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book two in the Millers Kill series. After two assaults on gay members of the community, Reverend Clare Fergusson stumbles across the body of a third victim, this time dead. Determined to stamp out hate crimes in her adopted town, she tries to help Chief Russ Van Alstyne in solving what seem to be straightforward homophobia. Things quickly become more complicated, involving big business, chemical contamination and conspiracies.
ffortsa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Number 2 in this mystery series, and just as delicious as the first one. The characters and cast of characters are deepening, and the mystery is quite satisfying. There's one real howler of a clue about two-thirds of the way through, where every reader will feel smarter than the lead characters, but then, we're reading the story, they're only IN it!
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second book in the Clare Fergusson series and I am getting to like this series more and more. This time around, the former Army helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest helps police chief Russ Van Alstyne uncover the criminals responsible for recent attacks on three gay men in the community of Miller's Kill in upstate NY. The case gets complicated due to the fact that one of the men was the head of a company involved in the development of a property that has caused some controversy in town. This complication makes the pool of suspects increase exponentially.I like the author's writing style very much and love the sense of humor that she brings to the narrative. The interaction between Clare and Russ makes me want to say, "So when will he get divorced and take this relationship with Clare to the next level?" It's getting there and they both are feeeling the vibes:"They walked through the fading light, the long grass rustling around them. Over the mountains, the sky was the color of bruised flesh. The Berns coursed ahead, black-and-white flashes amid the grayed gold and darkening green. The fence, rusty barbed wire and weathered posts, stopped them. They stood side by side, looking at the mountains and the sky. They did not touch. He took his glasses off and polished them on his shirtfront. 'Remember when you were getting me out of the helicopter? You told me to hold on tight?' He replaced his glasses and looked back to the high horizon. 'I'm still holding on.' He glanced down at his hand. 'I don't know how to let go.' 'Holding on...' she bit her lip. Cleared her throat. 'Doesn't do you much good when the person you're holding is falling too.'" (Page 320)Oh my, murder, mayhem, hate crimes with a little romance thrown in. Quite delectable and highly recommended.
jepeters333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's summer in the Adirondack town of Millers Kill. The townspeople are up in arms over a resort being built at the site of an old toxic waste dump. A series of violent homophobic assaults have left several men hospitalized. And Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson are discovering that it's impossible to ignore the heat. When the resort developer, a gay man, is found brutally murdered, Clare and Russ will have to face up to their own past demons - and their present temptations - to sweat out the truth behind the killing.
chrissywest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After reading the first book in the Clare Fergusson Series, In The Bleak Midwinter. I was very much looking forward to the A Fountain Filled With Blood. Like in In The Bleak Midwinter, I enjoyed the characters, but I didn¿t think the plot was as good. There were a few places I found it outright boring. The climax and conclusion was exciting and really made up for the few boring parts. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Out Of The Deep I Cry.
irishwasherwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not only is this a good mystery dealing with today¿s topics of gay-bashing and pollution, but the romantic tension between the two protagonists enhances its readability. There is a good balance between the main focus of the book and its subplots, which add to the buildup of the exciting conclusion. Although you can pretty much guess who the culprits are about half-way through the story, there are interesting twists and turns that at times make you doubt your first suspicions. The job-related duties that each of the main characters has to deal with provide some comic relief. The author is a Maine-based attorney, who formerly worked for a well-known personal injury law firm. This is an author who does her homework to ensure that her presentations are accurate, even if sometimes a bit contrived.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this second of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, a series of hate crimes against gays brings the duo together again. Clare is a thirty-ish Episcopal priest; Russ is the 48-year-old Chief of Police in Millers Kill, a small town in New York's Adirondacks region.Clare is still relatively new to the community and while she has demonstrated an ability to inspire, counsel, and lead her congregation, she has also unsettled them with some of her liberal views. In this book she provides pastoral counseling to gay assault victims and their partners, and takes up the cause of gay rights issue within her congregation by organizing a vigil. Through her profession Clare gains entry into unusual situations that provide insight to the crimes, and then can't resist going one step further (some might say one step too far) with further investigation. Armed with clues, she constantly badgers Russ to acknowledge a link between each case. Russ initially rejects Clare's involvement but as the crimes escalate, their collaboration becomes essential.Where the first book in this series drew more on Russ' talents as a law enforcement officer and Clare was the error-prone but well-intentioned assistant, this story is all about Clare. In a hilarious party scene, Clare gleans important clues but not without making a fool of herself. She also takes charge during a thrilling chase near the end, drawing on her Army training. Russ remains, as always, a dependable friend ... or perhaps something more? Russ is married, but his wife is always absent. Each character acknowledges their feelings for the other, but only to themselves. This is definitely a side story, but every time the two were alone together, I found myself wondering if this would be the big moment. Nah ... maintaining this dramatic tension is all part of the fun!
sjmccreary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a re-read for me - the 2nd book in my favorite series. Clare Fergusson is a retired army helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest. Originally from southern Virginia, she has been assigned to the small parish of St Albans in Millers Kill, NY - an up-state town near Albany. Russ Van Alstyn is a native son of Millers Kill and has returned home to assume the post of Chief of Police after 25 years of being an army MP. When the two first met, there was instant chemistry between them but, since he is long-married and both are moral people, they turned their backs on the attraction. This book begins 6 months later.A couple of gay men in town were savagely attacked and beaten and Clare is outraged at the thought of such brutality. True to form for her, she wants to go DO something about it. Tell people. Take a public stand. She comes into contact with Russ again as a result. As a priest, she is providing support and comfort to the families of these men. He is investigating the crimes. And he does not want to go public and label them as "gay bashing". When a third man, also gay, is found murdered - by Clare - the issues become clouded. Was he part of the same series of attacks on gays? Or was his death related to a development project he is heading up and which some townspeople claim is causing PCB's to be released into the groundwater?Clare is outspoken and impulsive - she acts first and thinks later. Russ is more reserved, but there is something about Clare that he simply can't resist. And that is the reason I love these books. The way the attraction between these star-crossed lovers is written is so realistic, so perfect, you can just see every grin, every blush, and feel the warmth between them. When Russ runs his fingers through his hair and mutters under his breath "you're driving me crazy", we know he's not talking about Clare's latest scheme. And when he is distracted by thoughts of her and obviously not listening to what she is saying and answers "Jimmy Carter" to her question of "what are you thinking about?", she knows what he's talking about, too. For me, the mysteries are secondary in this series. The real story is the relationship between these characters. And it is perfect - chaste, but perfect. Recommended, but try to begin with the first book, In the Bleak Midwinter.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
2nd in the Reverend Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series.A well-respected medical examiner, who is gay, is beaten to within an inch of his life. Shocked by the appearance of such a hate crime, Clare urges Rush to warn other gays in Miller¿s Kill about the incident. Russ refuses, afraid that that will merely incite copycat crimes. Within a short time, yet another gay man is severely beaten in his video rental store, ratcheting the tension between Clare and Russ higher.Meanwhile, Russ¿s feisty 69 year old mother is leading a protest against a resort development just outside of Miller¿s Kill that may be releasing PCBs from an old storage site into the waters and ground of the town. As it happens, one of the partners in the development company is a gay man. During a 4th of July fireworks celebration, Clare stumbles across his body in a park. Environmental issues and hate crimes are twin matrices in Spencer-Fleming¿s second novel in this excellent series. When done well, themes such as these can add a great deal to the interest of a plot. While both are necessary for the plot, Spencer-Fleming does not handle these themes that well, especially the environmental one. It feels forced; her description of the major demonstration is even faintly ridiculous. The hate crime theme is more neutral but other than to serve as a mask in the plot, does not do much for the story.Spencer-Fleming¿s writing is not that outstanding, but served her well in her first novel. In this the second, it is distinctly more mediocre. The verb `to snort¿ is overused, not to say abused; you really can¿t use it twice in the same paragraph and hope to get a good effect.The climax of the book includes a helicopter crash which should be gripping but falls short because I, for one, don¿t know the terminology of helicopter anatomy well enough to be able to follow what happens after the crash. I had to take it on faith that it was a tense time where the situation could have deteriorated badly. It was really too bad.The plot is good but not anything out of the ordinary. It serves.But, Spencer-Fleming¿s strengths are present as well. Her sense of humor, on display through her characters¿ reactions to situations, especially that of Clare, is wry and at times wonderfully self-deprecating as well. Russ and Clare are strong characters with distinct and believable personalities. The setting, in northeast New York State, is well done; clearly Spencer-Fleming knows her small towns and the geography of the area.I found the book a letdown after the excellent debut novel, In The Bleak Midwinter. Still, though something of a disappointment, Spencer-Fleming endowed her characters and situation well enough to keep interest in the series going.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this second of the series, Spencer-Fleming gives us another great thriller. I really enjoy the combo of the amatuer sleuth, Clare Ferguson, priest of the local Episcopal Church (and oh, by the way, retired Army helo pilot) and the professional crime fighter, police chief Russ Van Arsdale (oh,by the way, retired Army MP). The story begins with the vicious attack on the town's Medical Examiner, who just happens to be gay, and shifts quickly to a demonstration against a resort development on the site of some alleged PCBs. Here we meet Russ's mother, a real pistol of an active elder, who gets herself thrown in jail by her son for demonstrating without a permit.There is more murder and mayhem, and an incredible helo scene (we KNEW sooner or later Clare was going to fly again!). So no spoilers, but this plot was gut churning, and there were enough suspects to keep three police forces busy. I don't do spoilers, so we'll leave the story line there.The issue of gays and same sex marriage is treated with delicacy and compassion, but in the end, I couldn't quite figure out if the issue of gay bashing was red-herring to hide the real reason for the crimes. I do have very mixed feelings about the blossoming romantic relationship between the two main characters however. We have yet to meet Russ' wife--she's always off working on her curtain business, and Spencer-Fleming has the two protagonists playing with fire. I can't wait til book #3 to see if sparks ignite.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The developing relationship between Reverend Claire Fergusson and Sherrif Russ Van Alystyne is much more interesting than the murders. Circumstances revolving around land development bring the two together in solving the murders of the environmentalist and developer. Claire flies a helicopter rescue and Russ' mother becomes a friend.
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
Julia Spencer-Fleming writes an action-packed mystery that inserts a little religion into the story. My feelings for Clare change during the story. I sometimes feel that Clare goes too far in proving herself to be worthy of respect. The story displays the downfall of greed and in keeping up appearances. Many of the characters pop in and out of the series, and some of the characters would be better omitted from the pages. The book provides an interesting and speedy read.
Delphimo More than 1 year ago
Julia Spencer-Fleming writes an action-packed mystery that inserts a little religion into the story. My feelings for Clare change during the story. I sometimes feel that Clare goes too far in proving herself to be worthy of respect. The story displays the downfall of greed and in keeping up appearances. Many of the characters pop in and out of the series, and some of the characters would be better omitted from the pages. The book provides an interesting and speedy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed but not as good as the previous book in series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
I don't know what it is about this series, but I don't have the desire to continue with the stories, but seem to have this incessant desire to read "just one more" to see what develops between the characters.  As was the same with the first story, I felt like it took way to long to get to the heart of the story. I think that once the story finally takes off, that it is good, but that's just not enough to make me love a story. It seems that the author really can write exciting events, but that seems to be it. It seems like she just has a hard time executing it all together.  As for the characters, I find myself dying to know what happens with them, even though I don't care for the innuendo's that are taking place. First of all, how strange is it that an Episcopal Priest is a female who is a former Army helicopter pilot that regularly drinks and drives a Shelby Mustand, but most importantly finds herself more openly attracted to a married man than she should? I myself, don't agree with infidelity, so it's hard to accept the budding relationship between Clair and Russ. I also just find Claire's character unbelievable. I don't have such a problem with Russ as Chief of Police and it's obvious that the attractions are mutual between Russ and Claire but just don't understand it, or my desire to see where it goes. After reading the first book in the series, I said I would read the second and then decide if I would continue from there! After reading this  one I immediately decided that I was not going to continue, however, after reading the description of the third book, I'm going to give this series one last chance!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good writing but the story dragged a bit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book