Miller’s Kill reaches the boiling point in this white-hot novel of love and suspense from award-winning author Julia Spencer-Fleming
In the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, New York, life doesn’t stop for heartbreak. A brand-new officer in the police department, a breaking-and-entering, and trouble within his own family keep Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne busy enough to ignore the pain of losing his wife—and the woman he loves.
“SPENCER-FLEMING REMAINS A STAND-OUT IN THE MYSTERY WORLD.”
—Chicago Sun Times
At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, the Reverend Clare Fergusson is trying to keep everyone happy all the while denying her own wounded soul. When a Mexican farmhand stumbles over a Latino man killed with a single shot to the back of his head, Clare is sucked into the investigation. The discovery of two more bodies executed in the same way ignites fears that a serial killer is loose. Now two would-be lovers, who thought they had lost everything, must find a way to trust each other again—as the violence strikes ever closer to home...
About the Author
Bestselling author JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING is the winner of the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Dilys, Barry, Nero Wolfe, and Gumshoe Awards, and an Edgar and Romantic Times RC Award finalist. She was born at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, spending most of her childhood on the move as an army brat. She studied acting and history at Ithaca College, and received her J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law. She lives in a 190-year-old farmhouse outside of Portland, Maine.
Read an Excerpt
When she saw the glint of the revolver barrel through the broken glass in the window, Hadley Knox thought, I’m going to die for sixteen bucks an hour. Sixteen bucks an hour, medical, and dental. She dove behind her squad car as the thing went off, a monstrous thunderclap that rolled on and on across green- gold fields of hay. The bullet smacked into the maple tree she had parked under with a meaty thud, showering her in wet, raw splinters.
She could smell the stink of her own fear, a mixture of sweat trapped beneath her uniform and the bitter edge of cordite floating across the farm house yard.
The man shooting at her turned away from the porch-shaded window and yelled something to someone screaming inside. Hadley wrenched the cruiser door open, banging the edge into the tree. She grabbed for the mic. "Dispatch! Harlene? This bastard’s shooting at me!" Some part of her knew that wasn’t the right way to report an officer under fire, but she didn’t care. If she lived to walk away from this, she was turning in her badge and her gun and going to work at the Dairy Queen.
The radio crackled. "Hadley? Is your eighty still the Christie place?"
She could barely hear the dispatcher over the shouting and swearing from the farm house. She thought she made out two masculine voices. "Yes," she yelled, getting a squeal of feedback from the mic. She tried again, forcing herself to speak in something like a normal tone. "He’s got a .357 Magnum." She had recognized the sidearm. Hot damn. "There may be more than one of them. Men, I mean. Not guns. Although there may be more guns." She could hear herself, close to hysteria. "For God’s sake, send help!"
There was a pause. The hell with this, she thought. The hell with it. I’ve got two kids at home who need me. As if invoking Hudson and Genny cleared her head, she suddenly realized the highest- pitched shrieking wasn’t coming from a woman. Oh, my God. Oh, shit. She squeezed the mic again. "Dispatch, it’s not just the sister and the caseworker. The kids are in there, too."
This time, Harlene’s reply was instant. "We’ve got cars on the way and the state sharpshooter team is scrambling. See if you can keep him talking until backup gets there."
Hadley stared at the mic. "Keep him talking? About what? Jesus H. Christ, I’m not a negotiator! I haven’t even finished the Police Basic course yet!"
"You talked to angry guys in prison, didn’t you? Think of something. Dispatch out."
Talk to angry cons? Hell, yeah. The difference was, they were behind bars, weaponless, powerless, while she walked around free, armed with baton and taser. Cons didn’t shoot at you from a house full of hostages.
The kids were screeching, a woman sobbing, the man swearing. Think of something. Think of something. Hadley slithered out of the squad car and crouched behind the open door. She raised herself up until she could see out the window. "Hey!" she yelled. "Hey! You!"
The end of the .357 Magnum swung out of the farm house window, knocking a few more shards of glass onto the front porch. Goddamn, that thing looked as big as a cannon. She inhaled. The July sun beat down on the dirt drive, throwing up waves of heat. It was like breathing in an oven. "How ’bout you let me take those kids off your hands?"
"How ’bout you come up here and—" He launched into a graphic description of what he wanted her to do for him and what he was going to do to her. She hoped to God the children didn’t understand.
"Let the kids go and we can talk about it," she shouted. "You want money? You want a ride outa here?"
"I want what’s mine!" the shadowy figure with the gun yelled. "It’s got nothing to do with you, bitch. Leave me alone and nobody will get hurt!" Something from the interior of the house caught his attention. He swiveled around. Yelled something she couldn’t make out. Then the gun went off again.
Hadley was up and moving without thinking, running toward the house, her Glock 9 mm awkward and slippery in her hand. If she had any plan at all, it was to get past the end of the porch to the corner of the house, where he couldn’t see her without opening a window and leaning out. He turned back toward her. She could see the outlines of his face now, his eyes glittering in the dimness of the front room. He brought up the .357. She heard the breath sawing in and out of her chest, the howling of women and children, the susurration of tires on dirt and gravel, and she knew she wasn’t going to make the shelter of the house in time.
Oh God oh God oh God oh God— she heard the shot, higher and keener than the last two, and dove toward the hewn stone foundation, rolling hard into its cool dampness. The blow stunned her, numbed her, and she beat against herself with one hand while trying to raise her gun to a defensive position with the other, all the while wondering, Where is it? Where am I hit?
Then her head steadied and she looked back across the dooryard. A big red pickup straddled the drive—defensively sideways, not head- on like her cruiser. Russ Van Alstyne, the Millers Kill chief of police, had his arms braced on the hood of the truck, his Glock .40 tight in a two- handed grip, pointing at the porch. The gun, she realized, that she had just heard discharging.
"You okay, Knox?" Van Alstyne didn’t take his eyes off the window.
"Yeah." She struggled to sit up. "I mean, yes, sir."
"Stay right there. Don’t move." She glanced up. Some four or five feet above her, a closed window reflected the maple facing it. Hadley squeezed against the edge of the house, drawing her knees in close, doing her best to disappear.
"You shoot one more time and I swear I’ll cap one of ’em here," the man screamed. "I’ll blow one of these bitches’ heads off!"
The chief raised one hand, showing it was empty, and carefully placed his sidearm on the hood of the truck with the other. Hadley heard the crunch of more tires. Another squad car pulled in, flanking the chief’s. The door popped open on the far side. She caught the glint of bright red hair and then a bristle brush of gray. Kevin Flynn and Deputy Chief MacAuley. MacAuley and the chief had a short and inaudible conversation.
"What’s going on?" the gunman demanded.
The chief had a way of making his voice big without yelling. "My deputy here says the state SWAT team is on the way. They’re not interested in talking to you. But I am."
"Screw you!" the man yelled. His voice, so near, made Hadley’s skin crawl.
"C’mon, man, talk to me." The chief sounded like he was about to buy the shooter a beer. "Whaddaya gonna do, shoot one of them? Shoot one of us? They’ll send you up to Clinton, life with no chance of parole. For what? Is one of those bitches worth the rest of your life?"
Hadley felt the shock of the chief’s words sizzle up her spine. Was this the same guy who said "Excuse me" when he accidentally swore within her earshot?
"C’mon," the chief went on. "You put your gun down, I put my gun down, we’ll call it drunk and disorderly. You’ll get thirty days on the county, watching cable TV and sitting in air conditioned comfort."
"I don’t want no trouble," the man yelled. "Me and my brothers just want what’s ours. You hear?" his voice shifted, as if he had turned away from the window and shouted to the people inside. "Yeah, I’m talking to you, girlie! You been holding out on me?"
In the drive, Flynn and MacAuley had taken up positions ranged to either side of the chief. Van Alstyne pointed at Hadley, then toward the back of the house, then at his eyes. See what’s around in back. She nodded. She rolled belly down on the ground and crawled knees- and- elbows toward the rear of the house. It reminded her of the funny salamander-style crawling Hudson had used when he was a baby, except he hadn’t been saddled with a bulky belt and an increasingly heavy gun.
The chief was going on about the weather and the heat, and— Jesus Christ!— he actually offered the guy a cold one. Hadley crawled out from beneath the maple’s shade, the sunlight pressing on her back like a hot iron taking the wrinkles out of her blouse. She paused at the corner of the building, wrestled her gun into a half- assed shooting position, and peeked around the side.
Peeling white clapboards. A wheezing air-conditioning unit dripping water on the ground. Five steps leading up to a narrow roofed porch. A rusty wheel supporting a clothesline bolted next to the back door . . . the back door that was half open to the room inside.
"Hel- lo, momma," she whispered. If the chief could keep the guy in the front room distracted, she could sneak in and try to get the kids out. There wasn’t much cover— the land sloped away from the house, the clothesline running maybe fifty yards over open grass until it connected with a lone birch tree. But if she could get them down the porch steps and around the corner, she could keep them against the foundation, out of the line of fire.
She crawled forward, one foot, two, then raised herself up to get a better view of the door.
Hadley was staring into the eyes of a dead woman. She was half in, half out of the doorway, mouth still open from her last word, her blood soaked into her shirt and puddling beneath a plastic laundry basket filled with towels.
Oh, my God.
Hadley collapsed back onto the ground, squeezing her eyes shut like a kid hiding from the boogeyman. She swallowed, dry- mouthed, against her rising gorge. I’m not going to throw up, she thought. I’m not going to throw up. With her eyes closed, she noticed the things she should have earlier: the bright copper tang of blood, the nose- wrinkling suggestion of human waste, the buzzing of full- bellied flies.
She could hear the timbre of Van Alstyne’s voice floating on the heat- saturated air. I have to let the chief know about this. Of course, to do that she was going to have to move, which she didn’t want to do, not now, not maybe ever. She didn’t want to deal with yet another dead person. What was this? The fourth? Fifth?
With that, she had another realization. The chief’s promise of thirty days in the county jail— a lie to begin with, since the guy had shot at a cop, for God’s sake—wasn’t going to seduce this man. He wasn’t going to give himself up. He was already headed for Clinton. He had nothing to lose.
Hadley reversed herself, staying as low to the ground as she could, then belly- crawled back around the side of the house. The chief was focused on the man with the gun, who was ranting about getting ripped off and not being able to trust anyone. Hadley ignored him. She stuck her hand up in the air to get someone’s attention. The chief’s eyes never wavered from the window where the shooter was hunkered down, but behind the squad car’s tail, Kevin Flynn poked his head up and nodded once. He had been the MKPD’s least experienced officer before she was sworn in, and his per sis tent attempts to be helpful and friendly didn’t lessen the gall of playing catch- up with a guy eight years her junior. She hoped he was good at charades— there was no way she could use her radio this close to the house— as she laid her gun on the grass next to her.
First she jerked her thumb toward the rear of the farm house: back there. She used two hands to make the universal feminine shape, out, in, out: a woman. She drew a finger across her throat: dead. She held one hand like a pistol and "shot" herself in the chest.
Flynn shook his head as if to clear it, then nodded again. His red hair disappeared, to pop up again moments later, behind the chief. The chief heard what ever it was Flynn said to him. His eyes narrowed and his skin seemed to stretch across his cheekbones. He murmured something to Flynn, who slid into one of the cruisers and grabbed a mic.
"What’s going on?" the shooter asked. "What’s he doing on the radio?"
"I just told him to ask the state troopers to stay back a ways." Van Alstyne held up one hand. "I want you and me to have the time we need to talk our way out of this thing. Can’t do that with a bunch of staties with guns hanging around."
More likely Flynn was telling the SWAT team to detour its sharpshooters farther along the road leading to the Christies’ half- mile drive. If they went the long way around and stuck to a narrow approach through the sheep pasture, they could make it to the barn without being seen. Once inside, they would have an ideal vantage point through the haymow and upper windows.
The same idea seemed to occur to the gunman. "You tell those bastards to stay away from us," he shouted. "Anybody tries to mess with us, they gotta go through one of these kids to do it." Within the house, a woman cried out. Hadley didn’t realize the man had left his defensive position at the front window until the chief shouted, "Knox! What’s he doing in there?"
She scrambled to her feet and peered into the window she had been crouched beneath. She got a beautiful view of the front hallway and the stairs. Useless. She covered the eight feet to the next window in two long strides. The sill was just low enough for her to see into a room in chaos, children scattering, a teenager clutching an infant, a woman struggling with the man as he yanked a little boy off his feet.
"He’s holding a kid," Hadley yelled. "He’s—oh, shit, no!" She watched, helpless, as the man clubbed the woman in the face with the butt of his gun. The woman dropped to the floor.
"Are there other shooters?" the chief yelled.
"I can’t tell!" she screamed. "Maybe in the front—"
The man holding the squirming child turned toward the window, aiming the revolver at Hadley. She ducked and covered just in time. The window shattered. Shards of glass sliced into her hands, stabbed the back of her uniform, caught in her hair.
The chief was yelling for her and Flynn to get to the back door. She heard the muffled thud of footsteps against grass and then Flynn was beside her. He tossed her a Kevlar vest identical to the one he was wearing. She caught it, rose, and took off for the rear of the house, glass tinkling as it flew off her like water off a shaggy dog. She struggled into the vest as Flynn rounded the corner, taking the steps up to the porch in two bounds. He went high, holding the door open, while she crouched low, stepping over the body of the murdered woman—I’m sorry, ma’am, so sorry— shouting, "Police! Put your weapons down!" to the empty kitchen. She moved aside for Flynn to pass through and almost fired when a straggly boy appeared in the doorway. "Porsche!" he bawled. From unseen rooms beyond she heard Van Alstyne bellowing, a girl shrieking, and then, Holy God, the sound of gunfire, one, two shots and the .357 Magnum going off.
"Get in here!" Hadley shouted at the boy, as one gun and then another gun fired, and fired, and fired, too many shots, way too many. She and Flynn pushed past him into the doorway, low, high, her heart beating so fast she thought she was going to die.
She thought she was going to die.
The teenager screamed, yanking one of the kids out of the way. They rounded the big table dominating the space and approached the front room. Through the doorway, Hadley could see the other woman, out on the floor, bleeding from a vicious cut in her forehead. Beside her, the gunman was sprawled half on and half off a sofa, his eyes staring unseeing at the ceiling, his chest a bloody mess. A second man slumped in the far doorway, folded over like a stringless marionette.
Hadley thought she might collapse on the spot from relief. Instead, she and Flynn fanned into the room. She froze. Flynn let out a keening sound like a banshee. Omen of death. There was another body crumpled on the wooden floor.
Russ Van Alstyne.
Lyle MacAuley looked up from where he knelt beside the chief. "Call nine- one- one," he snapped at Flynn. He looked at Hadley. "Get me something I can use for compresses." His voice was as sharp- edged as ever. She and Flynn stumbled into the kitchen, where Flynn whirled and ran out the door, while Hadley stood stupidly, thinking, Compresses? Then she remembered the basket of laundry. She stepped over the dead woman, dug into the basket, and emerged with two bath towels.
She dashed back to the front room, holding out the towels. MacAuley snatched them out of her hands. While he folded them into thick pads, she looked down at the chief.
"Oh, Jesus," she said.
"Shut up!" MacAuley nodded toward the dining room. "Get these civilians out of here."
Hadley turned around. The door between the two rooms was crowded with crying kids. The teenager with the infant stood weeping— the scraggly boy’s Porsche, she supposed— rocking the red- faced baby back and forth while it screamed. Best to start with her. Hadley stepped through the doorway, forcing the girl to retreat.
"Porsche? Are you Porsche?"
The girl nodded, openmouthed with crying.
"Is this your baby? What’s her name?"
The girl gasped. "Amari." Her voice was wet and shaking.
"Why don’t you let me hold Amari for a sec while you catch your breath." Hadley scooped up the baby and ran her pinkie knuckle over its toothless gums. The baby stopped wailing, a startled look on its face. Then it clamped around Hadley’s knuckle and began sucking with a vengeance. An old ploy, but it still worked. "Porsche." Hadley moved her face so she blocked the girl’s line of sight. "Let’s get these little ones out of here. They don’t need to see this anymore."
"M-m- my aunt."
"The ambulance is on the way. The best thing you can do for her is help calm the children down."
The girl nodded. Wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Let Hadley slide the baby back in her arms. The girl copied her pinkie- nursing trick. "C’mon, everybody," she said, in a fake- calm voice that Hadley herself used when she was trying to keep it together in front of her kids. "We’re going outside." She stepped into the kitchen, saw what was blocking the door, and whirled around. "No, Aston! Not that way! Out the front hall."
Hadley helped steer the kids toward the mercifully blood-free front hall. The little boy she had seen in the kitchen stopped beside the door to the front room, his eyes fixed on the unconscious woman. He looked up at Hadley. "Is Izzy gonna die, too?"
Hadley scooped him up in her arms. "An ambulance is coming to help her, sweetie. She’ll have to go to the hospital, but she’ll be fine." She prayed she wasn’t lying. She took the last child’s hand and followed Porsche out the front door and across the drive, to where a small grove of large maples cast a deep shade over the grass.
Kevin emerged from one of the squad cars. "Ambulances coming." He headed for the house. "Harlene called them in before we got here. Support team from emergency ser vices and Children and Family, too."
Hadley shot a glance at the traumatized family, then followed Kevin.
Without the crying children, the farm house sank into the deep dreaming silence of a hot July afternoon. The only sounds were the clunk and rattle of cubes falling from the icemaker and a hoarse, wet churning as Russ Van Alstyne tried to breathe. MacAuley had folded one towel around the wound in the chief’s thigh and cinched it tight with his belt. As Hadley watched, a pulse of blood appeared on its white surface. MacAuley pressed the other towel, already sodden, against the chief’s chest. Flynn was dragging cushions off the couch, wedging them beneath the unconscious woman’s legs, getting more blood flow to her injured head. Hadley scooped some ice cubes out of the freezer, knotted them into a dishrag, and laid the improvised ice bag over the woman’s eyes and nose. None of them said anything, as if a single word would break open their pretense at composure.
A wracking, phlegmy sound split the silence.
"Can’t . . . breathe." The chief’s voice was a whisper. Flynn nearly tripped over himself getting to Van Alstyne’s side.
"I think you’ve punctured a lung," MacAuley said. "The EMTs will set you to rights. Listen." Far away, a faint siren sounded. "They’re almost here."
The chief inhaled. It was liquid, choking, horribly wrong. Hadley looked down. The towel around his thigh was crimson. Almost here, she realized, would not be fast enough.
"Lyle... tell Clare..."—the chief breathed in again— "tell her...."
"You can tell her yourself when you see her."
Hadley’s stomach turned. She looked at Flynn. Tears smeared his sunburned cheeks. Without thinking, she reached over and grabbed his hand. The siren was louder now.
"Russ?" MacAuley sounded panicked, which was almost as scary as the chief’s struggle to breathe. "Don’t you die on me, Russ!"
The sucking, gurgling sound was louder, accompanied by a hiss, as if Russ Van Alstyne’s air was pumping out of him along with his life’s blood.
"Clare," he said. And then there was silence.
Excerpted from I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Copyright © 2008 by Julia Spencer-Fleming.
Published in June 2008 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I could not put it down. I read the whole series, but this last one is so far the best of all. Clare and Russ grow on you like fictional characters rarely do. I found this author by chance and she will be one of my favorites for a long time! Can't wait for the next installment.
I love the Clare Fergusson series--accidentally discovered the first one and was hooked. I've read all of them so far except the seventh, which is waiting on my Nook, and once I start them, I read them almost straight through in a day or so. The books usually move along very quickly and offer suspense and well-rounded characters. This one has been the best of all in terms of the tension/interest between Russ and Clare, but there is one aspect of of the book that drove me crazy--it has to do with the lack of proof-reading and research. The story deals with Spanish-speaking people, yet there are several glaring mistakes in the Spanish. If an author puts words/expressions in a foreign language, the very MINIMUM readers should be able to expect from that author is correctness. Example: "BuenOS noches." Spanish adjectives agree with their nouns--it should be "BuenAS noches." (And the character who actually uses this incorrect Spanish in the book is Hispanic!) Russ speaks a couple of times about not "caring" what another character said. He uses the expression, "No cuido." Cuido means "to take care of", not "to care about." He should say, "No me importa." These are basic beginning Spanish grammar easily checked, and the errors were definitely annoying, at least for me. It's like people who write about someone putting on her "leotards" rather than her leotard (singular, unless you layer one over the other, which would be a very uncomfortable fit), when simple proofing/checking with someone who knows could avoid this!
I Shall Not Want gets off to a slow start and I thought I wouldn¿t be able to complete the book but I enjoy the characters Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Rev. Clare Fergusson so much I decided to stick with it and I¿m glad I did. I waited a long time for I Shall Not Want because it¿s a follow up to All Mortal Flesh which I thoroughly enjoyed. Three quarters through the book it started resembling Russ and Clare¿s other adventures.
This was such a great read
I've read/listen to the entire series earlier & waiting for the next book. I bought the entire series for Nook because my husband is reading them & likes the larger font option on the Nook. Each book in the series is different story line, only the characters remain the same. One of the few series I would buy twice (1st in paperback/hardcover books & now in e-books). Will probably read again on next vacation.
I became hooked on these books after reading #1 and have continued with the first six. My favorite type of book is always a mystery but I find the relationship between Clare and Russ intriguing and builds during each successive book. I can hardly wait for #7 to come out in paperback. I have kept all six books together in the box they came in and lend them as a set to friends and they all find them most enjoyable too.
I loved every book in this series!
This is the first book of this series that I've read, I might read others but probably wouldn't search them out. Some interesting concepts but not as tightly constructed as they could be.
The author has a nice touch for dialog and characters. She effectively evokes small town America. Her characters are well-developed and interesting. The dialog is crisp and never tedious. This book ends on a positive note, but still makes us look forward to the next novel in the series. All in all Spencer-Fleming is a good author who turns out a very readable novel.
I love this series and this book does not disapoint. If you are new to this series, I would start at the begining and work your way up to this one. The story is smart, fun, and very well crafted. This series has become one of my absolute favorites. I can't figure out why it's not more well know. Maybe the 'priest' thing scares people off. If it does, they are missing out. The fact that Claire is a priest is a part of the story, but you are not over whelmed with religion.
I Shall Not Want is the 6th book in Julia Spencer-Fleming's award-winning series featuring the Episcopalian Reverend Claire Fergusson. Similar to the other books in this series I could not put this novel down and I was disappointed to read the final page. I am already anxiously awaiting the next book in this series! Religion, difficult ethical dilemmas, and current events are all interwoven with tragedy, humor, and romance. This superbly written novel handles all of these issues with sensitivity and ease. I love a good mystery and Spencer-Fleming consistently delivers engrossing, suspenseful twists in plot, as well as complex and engaging characters. The books are set in the sleepy town of Millers Kill, New York. There is a dark undercurrent running through the town, and Clare Fergusson always seems to be embroiled in troubling events in some way. I feel as if I intimately know Claire Fergusson, a truly good person who manages her troubles with grace. Her complicated relationship with Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne is fascinating. They are supported by a number of interesting players, all of whom add depth to the plot. All books in this series offer intelligent, thought-provoking plots and well-developed characters. I strongly recommend that readers begin with In the Bleak Midwinter, Spencer-Fleming's first book in this series. Regular readers of this series and new readers alike will not be disappointed in her latest effort.
I've enjoyed every book in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Millers Kill series, but really loved this one. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough--so much so that I ended up scrapping my plans for the day once I started reading.The mystery centers on migrant workers and a struggle for control of the illegal drug trade. But, as usual, the storyline centers on the relationship between Russ Van Alstyne, the chief of police, and Clare Fergusson, now training with the National Guard in addition to her duties as parish priest. A new addition to the force, Hadley Knox, and Kevin Flynn also play strong roles in the resolution.Every character is vividly drawn in a bitingly accurate depiction of small town living. (Granted, murder seems a lot more common that your average small town, but it wouldn't be a mystery series otherwise.) Given the ending of the previous book, I feared a fundamental change in the characters, but needn't have worried. There's still tension a-plenty.I highly recommend this book for mystery lovers, but would warn new readers that they should probably start with an earlier book in the series. The storyline relies heavily on knowledge of previous events.
I'm a fan of this series and each one seems to just get better. I put off reading this one because I knew it would be somewhat of a cliff hanger so I wanted to wait for the next one to come out. I just got my early review copy of the 7th one which I will read next week. If you like this series you've probably already read this one¿if not get it now. It's the best one so far, imo. It you aren't familiar with the series I recommend it, but start with the first one. They have to be read in order!
In the small Adirondack town of Miller's Kill, NY, life doesn't stop for heartbreak. A brand new officer in the police department, a breaking and entering, and trouble within his own family keep Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne busy enough to ignore the pain of losing his wife - and the woman he loves. At St. Albans Episcopal Church, the Reverend Clare Fergusson is trying to keep everyone happy all the while denying her own wounded soul. When a Mexican farmhand stumbles over a Latino man killed with a single shot to the back of his head, Clare is sucked into the investigation. The discovery of two more bodies executed in the same way ignites fears that a serial killer is loose. Now two would-be lovers, who thought they had lost everything, must find a way to trust each other again - as the violence strikes ever closer to home.
Continuing in the Clare Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne series, this book has created a bend in the road -- a new place for the relationship and a new role for Clare. I like it. I have been impressed by the maturity of their relationship in the past, and am glad that the author didn't take the sudden availability of Russ immediately to an emotional (or physical) consummation. It seems right that they should have this time of confusion, and I found it believable and sympathetic. The focus here is more on the relationship than on the mystery and its solution. I am also enjoying the development of the other characters in the series, which is continuing quite satisfactorily. The end was very funny, quite different from what we have been seeing, but not so outre as to be jarring.
I had severe let down. I don¿t know if it¿s because my expectations were so high, after the other one was so good, or if I was just in a different mind space, or if I could predict where it was going as I had read the author before, but this one fell short for me. Or maybe it¿s because I have read Harlan Coben, who tends to do a lot a similar things in his books, but more so.Now with that said, I do like Russ and Clare, but am getting a bit tired of the push/pull between them. I liked that a lot of my old favorite characters were there, and well and short visits from past ones. I like Hadley and hope she sticks around. We finally got some edge of my seat moments near the end, and I like that it was a humorous ending, although I¿m not sure it fit with the rest of the book. There was pay off in the end, but it felt like me to be a lot of work to get there. I¿m glad I did though, otherwise I would have been very discouraged. It made it worth my time investment.I like the dialog, internal as well as between the characters. I like that we got to see EVERYONES point of view, from the main characters, to minor characters. I think that it could have been done very well (and easier for the author) from just the two points of view of the main characters, but the fact that there was more really added layers to the story.Will I read anymore of this series? I don¿t know. I didn¿t think I would read this one, and I did, so who knows?
6th in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series.Superb. Gripping from the start. Spencer-Fleming alters her usual style; the first chapter, in which Russ is seriously wounded, takes place in the present; the time frame then reverts to 6 months previously. The back story is of more than usual interest as the reader waits, tensely, to learn the developments that lead to the shooting. The situation between Clare and Russ has deteriorated badly. The Millers Kill Police Force gains its first female officer. Clare inadvertently becomes involved in the welfare of a young Latino guest worker. With the discovery of the bodies of three Latinos, the town may have its second serial killer, this one targeting Latinos.The plot is excellent, a strong police procedural in a small town in upper New York state. The two protagonists, one an Episcopal priest with a knack for getting into trouble and the other a solid chief of police, are complex, likeable characters who continue to develop within the series. Gone, for example, is Clare¿s wry, self-deprecating and Russ¿ sardonic humor; it isn¿t appropriate. The setting is evoked well; the writing, while not outstanding is extremely good.But above all, Spencer-Fleming has a real talent for exciting, page-turning denouements to which she builds with skill. This book has not one but two of those, one of which manages to be funny as well, not the norm in the genre. Unfortunately for her poor readers, she has also developed a knack for truly stunning end-of-book twists that turn the ongoing story in a totally unexpected direction and which leave her poor readers, who have to wait a year or more for the next installment, hanging in air.The series is outstanding, and this is one of the best installments within it. Highly recommended.
Great book! I could not put this book down. Rev. Clare Fergusson and Chief of Police Russ Val Alstyne become involved in a murder investigation of a young migrant worker (who happens to be one of many illegal migrant workers in the small town of Millers Kill, NY). Murder, kidnapping, a break-in at Clare's church and a possible serial killer is suspected as more bodies turn up. There is more romance between Clare and Russ woven throughout the story, which entertains greatly. A good dose of humor is mixed in at just the right times.This book is a real winner. Ms. Spencer-Fleming deals with very relevant social issues once again. A very well-written book in a series that just seems to get better, and this is quite a feat since she won all kinds of awards for her first book in the series, "In The Bleak Midwinter". The ending of the book definitely left me wanting more. I can't wait for the 7th book in this series.
The latest in the series about Miller's Kill, a small Adirondacks town, where Episcopal minister Claire Fergusson and police chief Russ Van Alstyne have been fighting their mutual attraction for years. This book has an interesting plot involving migrant workers, but the focus is very much on the relationship between the two principals. For those who don't mind their mystery mixed with (frustrated) romance, a good and atmospheric read.
The author's web page calls this series "Novels of faith and murder for readers of literary suspense." This one is all that and more. In this the sixth one in her series, Julia Spencer-Fleming gives us more of two of my favorite characters: Clare, the episcopal priest/Army National Guard helo pilot, and Russ - the recently widowed Chief of police/retired Army MP. In this episode Clare becomes involved with Sr. Lucia, a nun who is sponsoring an outreach to migrant Mexican farm workers who have come to the area to work on the dairy farms (one of which belongs to Russ' sister Janet and her husband). When Sr. Lucia's van is shot at and crashes, several of the migrants who were passengers run into the woods, and Russ and Clare begin a search for them to be sure no one is hurt. When the discovery of the first body is followed by several more, the story escalates into a full-blown mystery thriller with many suspects (is there a serial killer hiding somewhere?), some of whom are really nasty characters. All the while, life goes on in Miller's Kill. Clare has to placate her vestry, her new deacon, and her bishop. The police force has to deal with auto accidents, domestic violence complaints, and fraternization. Russ has to figure out if (at 50 years old) he really wants to go on living with his mother.Fans of the series know that is not all there is. Clare and Russ have been romantically attracted to each other all along, but until the death of his wife in the previous book, they've managed not to act on the attraction. Now as they are try to recover from the events of the previous winter and their individual feelings of guilt, they still are uncertain whether they can or should trust themselves and their feelings as they go forward. I think it is almost impossible to understand this one unless you read at least #5, All Mortal Flesh, first. The series is truly best when read in order, something I've just completed since this spring.The romance is strong, convincing, funny and but respectful. In addition to Clare and Russ, Spencer-Fleming introduces a new romantic couple - Hadley Knox, a 32 year old divorcee with 2 kids, and Kevin Flynn, a 24 year old innocent - the two youngest police officers on the force. Their relationship is touching, funny, and leaves us hopeful that they will be able to work out their differences, and that Hadley will decide to stay with the police force.SLIGHT SPOILER ahead: In the end of this one, after the crimes are solved, Clare's National Guard Unit is called up (she receives the call on Christmas night) to go to Iraq for a year. She has only two weeks to get ready to leave.The Christmas night love scene in the rectory is positively one of the most erotic I have ever read.There is not a single word which doesn't fit. JSF sets a tone of reverence, love, longing, hope, forgiveness and pure joy that leaves the reader panting for more as Clare and Russ finally come together only to face being apart for a year. It is not sultry or salacious, but beautifully portrayed, with just a touch of self- deprecating humor sneaking in.The next book (#7: One was a Soldier) has had publication delayed until April 2011. It will be my Lenten penance to have to wait that long. But if you haven't read the series, then you have time to get them, read them in order, and luxuriate in a great series of mysteries, make friends with the inhabitants of Millers Kill, and get reading for the adventure of spring 2011.
Russ and Clare are both struggling with their guilt feelings regarding the death of Russ' wife and Clare having killed a man to save Russ' life. Clare gets involved with illegal immigrant farm workers which inadvertently gets her caught up in a drug smuggling enterprise. The addition of a new female police officer, Hadley Knox, took some of the investigation angle away from Clare. Book ended with Clare's national guard unit being called to Iraq.
What a page-turner! The best Fergusson/Van Alstyne book yet! I could hardly put it down! Great story line and vivid descriptions.