Julia Spencer-Fleming published In the Bleak Midwinter, the first book in her Clare Fergusson series, in 2002. Fergusson is a former army pilot, now Episcopalian priest and the first female priest at St. Albans in the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill. (Kill is the old Dutch word for river, but it sounds spooky, doesn't it?)
Now up to eight books with another due in 2020, the series is called the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series, as Clare’s police chief love interest gets double billing. Electricity sparked between pastor and cop from the get go. While Episcopalian priests can date and marry, they are definitely not supposed to date married men, especially high profile citizens like the police chief. The development of their relationship is one of the best parts of the series.
Spencer-Fleming has won several awards for her books and was nominated at least once for the coveted Edgar. She deserves the acclaim. This is one of the best-written, most intelligent mystery series going. The plots are creative and intricate. The pacing is solid, with exciting scenes that are actually exciting. The characters are complex -- Fergusson is one of the most interesting sleuths out solving mysteries. Spencer-Fleming does a masterful job of having Clare maintain her spiritual role while wrestling with human issues.
A big difficulty with amateur sleuth series is how to get the amateur sleuth involved in so many murder investigations. Spencer-Fleming handles this well, usually by having Fergusson face a minor problem in the beginning -- something a small town priest could believably have to deal with -- and then only throwing in the dead body after Fergusson is well involved. There are enough "stay out of this; I told you to wait in the car" conversations with Van Alstyne as necessary, but not annoyingly many.
I've read the first seven. All the titles are the names of hymns:
In the Bleak Midwinter (2002)
A Fountain Filled With Blood (2003)
Out of the Deep I Cry (2004)
To Darkness and to Death (2005) (reviewed here)
All Mortal Flesh (2007) (reviewed here)
I Shall Not Want (2008)
One Was a Soldier (2011) (reviewed here)
Through the Evil Days (2013)
Hid from Our Eyes (2020 - available for pre-order only)
Last updated on September 2, 2019.
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