Category: Crime Fiction
Synopsis: When two gay men are badly beaten followed by the death of an out of town developer the inhabitants of the little town of Millers Kill, New York don’t know what to think. Are the attacks linked to the victims sexual orientation or does it have something to do with the new spa the developer was building. Reverend Clare Fergusson and Chief of police Russ Van Alstyne are once again thrown together to solve a crime where they disagree on the causes.
My Thoughts: I recently read and reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter which is the first book in this series and immediately went out and bought the rest of the books in the series (including pre-ordering the last book in the series which hasn’t come out yet) and let me tell you, I haven’t regretted this purchase at all!
This book had less of the info dump. It didn’t have to establish as many characters as the first book did. Those characters that were introduced were done much more organically. I loved loved loved Margy Van Alstyne, Russ’s mother. One of the funniest incident in the book revolves around Russ having to arrest his mother for breaching the peace and her then refusing bail because she wants her day in court. It was a hilarious scene. I was sitting here laughing my head off.
This is a fairly simple murder mystery in and of itself, I like it because it tackles the issue of intolerance against the gay community. It manages in its simple form to look at both open hostility and the hidden hostilities that often exists in our society. There is a scene where Russ is decidedly uncomfortable when referring to the victims and their relationships, even calling them roommates when talking to his mother. At the same time he doesn’t seem to treat them or the case any different. Although I am with Clare here, I also thought Spencer-Fleming did a good job of showing what people think without necessarily vilifying attitudes that come out of ignorance and not hatred.
Speaking of Clare, the main character, part of me really like her: her compassion, her desire to right wrongs and help people, her willingness to see people for who they are not for what they are portrayed as being. At the same time, sometimes I am so incredibly on Russ side. She is almost to impulsive, to trusting at times. And overall that makes me love her. She is so incredibly human. I think we often place people in her situation, people who we believe should be perfect, on a pedestal. They should be perfection. But, and I am sure if she was real she would point this out, priests are sinners too. They are just as human as you and me. And in this case Spencer-Fleming manages to paint that perfectly.
I am a fan of police procedurals (don’t judge) and this book is very much in the same vein. You KNOW they are going to get the bad guy. You KNOW that if they seem to have found the bad guy half way through the book it is likely not the bad guy (to early). It is a nice safe book. But what makes this book fresh and exciting for me are the characters. The growing relationship between Clare and Russ. Clare’s relationships with the vestry and her beginning friendships. Russ relationship with he police officers and that with his mother. They are all to a certain extent types, but they are also incredibly real. And I could actually see these events unfold in my own town. In the end it is a very real book, and for me that is the highest praise.