I have to admit that the only reason I initially picked up the first book in this series is because the author lives in Portland, Maine. The idea of a book about an Episcopalian priest and a small town police chief didn't really appeal to me. Boy, am I glad that I found that first book! I am loving this series. Unlike many series that begin with a bang and then begin to peter out with subsequent installations, this series has actually gotten better, at least through the first four books. "To Darkness and to Death" actually takes place over the course of about 24 hours in the town of Miller's Kill in upstate New York. Spencer-Fleming tautly weaves several story lines and motives into a final bang that is both surprising and satisfying. The chemistry between Clare and Russ continues to crackle and entice. I have the fifth book in the series sitting here calling my name. I think I had better answer!
I continue to enjoy this series that I began reading such a short time ago. Spencer-Fleming knows how to write pulse-pounding scenes of action and danger while bringing her characters to life. Russ Van Alstyne and Clare Fergusson are two good people who've pledged themselves to help others. They are also falling deeply in love with each other, and this plunges them into a huge briar patch of moral dilemmas. I'd say that it's a treat to watch them walk the tightrope of professional respect and fiery passion except for one tiny fact: Spencer-Fleming not only makes readers feel the characters' attraction, she makes them feel their pain. This is probably the best relationship in crime fiction, and I'm always torn between inhaling the books in this series as quickly as I can to find out what happens to these two, or trying to take some time to savor each one. So far I'm savoring, but it's not easy.
Spencer-Fleming not only provides a top notch story and wonderfully complex characters (one of which is the upper New York state setting), there's also plenty of insight into human nature. She also touches on environmental issues with the estate being handed over to a nature conservancy, showing how this would affect the area's hunters as well as local logging companies and paper manufacturing.
If I have any complaints about this fourth book, it would be that too much time is spent with minor characters and not enough with Russ and Clare. The author is treading a very fine line with the two from a moralistic standpoint, and I know that they can't spend every day in each other's pockets, but when I find myself reading and reading and then thinking to myself, "Hey, where are Russ and Clare?" I know it's been too long between their scenes.
Now that I have that complaint off my chest, I find myself itching to pick up the next book in the series. I'm addicted!
Set during a single day, Agatha-winner Spencer-Fleming's explosive fourth mystery (after 2004's Out of the Deep I Cry) takes Rev. Clare Fergusson and Millers Kill, N.Y., police chief Russ Van Alstyne far from the tranquility offered by the Anglican services of morning prayer, Order for Noonday and Evensong. A phone call at 5:15 on a cold November morning leads Clareex-army helicopter pilot and rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Churchto join the local search and rescue team to look for the missing sister of recluse Eugene van der Hoeven, head of the 250,000-acre Haudenosaunee estate. On a day when she should be at St. Alban's preparing for the bishop's annual visit, Clare finds herself involved with Russ in an investigation involving brutal beatings, kidnapping and murder. As the day unfolds, Clare and Russ are compelled to examine their own relationship when the diocesan deacon arrives early to discuss a "serious matter" with Clare. Given her seminary training and her army background, it's not surprising that Clare deals with all that comes her way with energy, expertise, sensitivity and humor. Spencer-Fleming has brought alive the people and environs of Millers Kill in another riveting mystery.
Rev. Clare Fergusson gets an early morning call to join a search and rescue operation. She will link up with the local police chief who is her greatest temptation, and also juggle an annual visit from the bishop. Excellent writing and characters.
This is the 3rd book in the series, with Clare expecting a visit from the bishop, a rescue team has her out looking for a missing person. and Clare is already in hot water with the church. I have read these books in order, and can't wait to read the next one
As a proud Episcopalian and a mystery lover, I like this book. The religion is mostly peripheral, but there is a nice exchange between Clare and the Bishop's deacon when Clare finds out he isn't quite the old fogey she thought he was. The mystery is fine, full of people acting out of panic and accelerated craziness, which makes me wonder do people really act this way? And if they do, should I be frightened for my life? It's a well-written series. Enjoy.
Kathy D. (kaate9297) reviewed To Darkness and to Death: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Novel (Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries) on
I have enjoyed all the books in this series. I would recommend that anyone wanting to read the series should start with the first one. Part of the enjoyment of the series is observing the development of the characters' relationships through the different books.