Book Reviews of In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1)

In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1)
In the Bleak Midwinter - Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
ISBN-13: 9780312986766
ISBN-10: 0312986769
Publication Date: 3/14/2003
Pages: 384
Rating:
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 131

4 stars, based on 131 ratings
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

41 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 57 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
I've been told about this series for years. Now I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read it. The cast is full-bodied: a female priest with spunk, a cop with an absent wife, both of whom are veterans, and a town populated with interesting people.

The story is neither grisly nor smarmy.

I finished this book today, and immediately put the rest on my wish list.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait until I get my hands on a copy of the next book from this author! This was a wonderful mystery. The characters were people you'd like to know, the mystery believable and more complicated with every "clue." I took too long over lunch to find out the solution, and now I'm disappointed that there isn't more! Find yourself a copy; I don't think you'll be disappointed.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I really enjoyed this book. It's the first one I read by this author. It made me want to read more of her, and isn't that the acid test?
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 86 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Great, fast-read of a mystery. Clare is an Episcopalian priest, but she's not like most clergy members: She knows what the real world is like. She may be a bit meddlesome in other people's lives, but she's got their best interests at heart. She's a likeable character and so is Russ, the police chief. He doesn't go to church and constantly "takes the Lord's name in vain." He's a pussycat under his veneer of cynicism.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 1
I really love this series. ( and I found it through the bookclub). As an Episcopalian priest and a former army helicopter pilot Clare Fergusson is a unique protagonist.
In "In the Bleak Midwinter", the first book in the series, she has just begun to adapt to her new posting as pastor of a church in a small upstate New York town. The discovery of an abandoned child on the back steps of the church sets the plot in motion. While trying to locate the mother Clare meets and becomes friends with the local police chief, Russ Van Alstyne.
While the story line is intriguing it is the developing relationship between the two main characters and the very real dilemmas that they both face in their careers and their personal lives that makes this book (and the series) stand out. These are real people, trying to do the right thing both professionally and personally while being true to the high standards they set for themselves and others.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 125 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is the frist book in the series, with Clare Fergusson, the new priest at St Alban's aad her friend, the town police cheif Russ Van Alstyne. I did't think I would like this mystery, but I loved it.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
First book in a series, hope to find book #2 out there at PBS
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 51 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really like this series and will read more. Clare Fergusson is an Episcopal priest in a conservative parish who may not be quite ready for her. A newborn infant is left at the door of the church and the search for the mom leads to many secrets in the small New England village.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 52 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really enjoyed this book. The characters are vivid and the plot keeps you guessing. My only quibble is that if Clare was a soldier and pilot, it seems so unreasonable to believe that she fails to take the most elementary precautions, even though she is unfamiliar with the winters of upper New York.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 23 more book reviews
I really like this author. Her characters are real people and not the average characters. Where else have you run into a priest that is female and wants to get into the real action of the small town. Russ the police chief is perfect as her partner and the attraction between them is fun to feel.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on
I love Spencer-Flemings books.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on
Well written, interesting characters. Right mix of mystery, suspense, humor and reality. The story takes place during a snowy December - I got cold just reading it.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 13 more book reviews
1st in the series - Winner of 6 awards for best first novel

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 plot and nobody's fool.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 408 more book reviews
Great main characters - one a small-town sheriff; the other a female Episcopal priest - work together to solve the murder of a local girl and the abandoment of her newborn baby. The resolution of the mystery is almost at the cost of other lives. An extra spark in the story is the developing feeling between the two protagonists (the sheriff is a married man). The brutal winter weather is an integral part of the story. Quite an excellent read.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on
A good whodunit mystery. No foul language or explicit sex scenes. A refreshing change.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on
It was a good book
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 3 more book reviews
Really loved this book. Kind of the small town feel of Jan Karon books but with a good murder mystery. Can't wait to move on to #2...
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 1448 more book reviews
First Line: It was one hell of a night to throw away a baby.

There's a new priest at St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Miller's Kill, New York, and there are several parish members who believe the newcomer isn't a very good fit. Not only is Clare Fergusson a female, she's also an ex-Army helicopter pilot. When Clare finds a newborn baby left on the church doorstep, she meets the town police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who's the ex-Army good shepherd of his Miller's Kill flock. Together, their search for the baby's mother leads them into a world of secrets, a world of trouble... and a world of temptation.

When this book was published, it made quite a noise-- being the first to win the Agatha Award, the Malice Domestic Award, the Anthony Award, the Dilys Award, the Barry Award, and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. This is the first time this has ever happened, and the fanfare was tremendous. As in most cases when a book is praised from every rooftop, I merely lowered my head a bit and kept on reading my books. Massive praise makes me leary; however, when I was doing research recently, this book and its author reappeared on my radar, and I thought the time was right to see what all the shouting was about.

There's one good thing about coming late to the party: I can make an entrance and perhaps persuade other no-shows that they may want to dust off their invitations and join in the fun.

From the first line and from the first meeting of the two main characters, I found myself climbing up on the bandwagon. The December weather in the Adirondack Mountains did make me glad I was reading the book in sunny Phoenix, but In the Bleak Midwinter is all about Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, two of the best characters I've come across in in all my reading this year.

I felt more in tune with Van Alstyne-- cynical and all too aware of the evil humans are capable of. I have to admit that Clare had a tendency to drive me nuts in the how-can-a-smart-person-be-so-darned-dumb sort of way. Yes, she's not used to the sort of weather Miller's Kill is prone to, but how many times does she have to risk frostbite before she gets a pair of decent boots... and how many times does she have to skid off the road before she gets a vehicle that can deal with snow?

I do not care for "femjep"-- those times when a female character knowingly puts herself in danger for no real reason. Clare does this in her silly boots and even sillier MG, and the only thing that saved that portion of the book for me was how she got herself out of the mess.

These two characters could have me going on forever, but I will show restraint. The way I'm waxing poetic over Clare and Russ, you're probably wondering why I didn't give this book my highest rating. There are two reasons: Clare's mule-headed meteorological stupidity and the fact that it was rather easy to deduce whodunit and why.

Other than that, I'll have you know that I already have the next five books in the series on my to-be-read shelves-- with the most recent firmly ensconced on my wishlist. I will admit to being a bit nervous, though. My husband Denis has also read and enjoyed In the Bleak Midwinter and moved right along to A Fountain Filled With Blood. We've talked about the first book, so when Denis told me what Clare's new car is in the second book, all I could do was groan. Clare, don't do this to me!

Isn't it grand when you find characters that make you talk to yourself?
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 8 more book reviews
OK, I am hooked on Julia Spencer-Fleming's books and I have read three and am looking for more. I love the way she writes and since I know the territory that she writes about I can vision what she is saying. Good books.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 9 more book reviews
It was a really good book. Suspenseful, and fast moving.
It wasn't as "cozy" as I thought it would be. More on the
serious side.
Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne have a very good friendship and neither one wants to overstep the line.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 52 more book reviews
Had great hopes for this, but got bored 2/3 of the way through, skimmed to the end just to get the solution to the mystery. To wit: baby left on church doorstep, female Episcopalian priest finds it, gets involved with both the investigation and the local police chief, end up solving the mystery. Just did not appeal to me.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 66 more book reviews
I started reading this book for three reasons: 1) The Kindle edition was reduced in price for the month of February; 2) One of the main characters was a religious figure (and met a task in this season's Reading with Style challenge); and 3) the reader ratings were good. I also thought a little break from often-heavy literary fiction would be a welcome change. Well - I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I moved through this book and how captivated I was by the main characters: the female Episcopalian priest and the police chief in upstate New York who team up to solve a case smack dab in the middle of a very cold winter. I've already purchased the next two books in this series and I'm looking forward to more mysteries.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 10 more book reviews
It took me a while to reconcile the two points of Claire's makeup (priest, ex-army), but once I got past that I found this novel really grew on me. Nice amount of tension, good character development, without being overly gory. A very nice book to curl up with on a lazy day, or just before bed.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 108 more book reviews
Julia Spencer-Fleming is the winner of 6 awards. No other author has ever won all 6 Awards for their first novel!
"A riveting page turner" -- Publisher Weekly.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 305 more book reviews
First book of this author that I have read - excellent! I loved the characters and the plot. A lot of twists to keep you guessing too. I want to find more books by this author.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 7 more book reviews
I enjoyed the book, although the premise that a female priest was also an ex-Army chopper pilot is a bit far-fetched.The rest of the plot is well-written and suspenseful.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 30 more book reviews
First in the series. Clare Fergusson, a newly-ordained Episcopal priest, and Russ Van Alystyne, chief of police in Millers Kill, New York, work together to solve the mystery of a newborn that is left at the door of St. Alban's Episcopal Church. They find a world of trouble, secrets that shadow Millers Kill AND an attraction to each other. Winner of six awards for Best First (mystery) Novel by an American author.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 28 more book reviews
Ilove her books!
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 13 more book reviews
First time reading this author and I enjoyed this book very much.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 320 more book reviews
This is the first time I've read this author and this is the first book in her series. It is a good story and a very quick read. The characters are interesting and the book is not filled with foul language, or graphic murder or sex scenes.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 2194 more book reviews
Fairly good mystery, a little too much description but the story goes along fairly well and it is an easy afternoon read.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 27 more book reviews
Enjoyed this book and have ordered the rest of the series:
Pros: Good mystery, interesting and unique characters, learn about Episcopal Church, reads quickly
Cons: Never saw an author use the word "hiss" as much, some unnecessary repetition about her unpreparedness for the cold, jacket, boots and car. I also wasn't interested in the detail afforded to the terrain in the woods but that might be a matter of taste.
It was the first in the series however and I think she will probably clean up some of her repetitiveness as she perfects the series. Would recommend.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 11 more book reviews
A good mystery. I liked the story and the characters.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 166 more book reviews
Published in 2002, this is the first book in a mystery series featuring the teamwork of an ex-Army, Episcopalian woman priest (tough, spiritual and principled all at once, an interesting combination) and her friend, the married, casually atheist, chief of police in the small town in which they live. This one concerns an abandoned infant and a young woman found murdered.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 4 more book reviews
PRETY GOOD MYSTERY
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 218 more book reviews
I really enjoy this series!
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 17 more book reviews
This is a really good mystery. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like a book with a religious connection, but it was great and not at all focused on the religious part of Rev. Clare's character.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 10 more book reviews
I really enjoyed this book. I liked the characters, the town, the dynamics of the main characters, etc. The mystery was interesting and the writing was very good. I have already ordered all of the other books in the series that are available and can't wait to read them! Definitely recommend this book to mystery lovers
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 380 more book reviews
I kept trying to get into this book but just couldn't do it. Didn't find either of the central characters convincing or compelling. Went back to what I was reading before - Jacqueline Winspear.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 10 more book reviews
Julia Spencer-Fleming writes a decent mystery with a strong female lead. Clare Fergusson, the new Episcopal priest,is also an ex-Army chopper pilot. She's not about to sit back and let the town's police chief Russ Van Alstyne take care of her flock. Their clash and their sparing makes a good foil for this story set in winter in the New York Adirondacks.
reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne, Bk 1) on + 227 more book reviews
I really enjoyed this book! I can't wait to get book 2.