Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: I Shall not Want

Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Format:  audio - approx 15 hours; 336 pgs equivalent
Characters: Clare Ferguson; Russ Van Alstyne, and many others
Subject: Migrant workers, drug smuggling, Romance, murder
Setting: fictional town of Millers Kill NY
Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery
Genre: police procedural mystery, a thrilling cozy
Source: public library

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.


  1. "The Christmas night love scene in the rectory is positively one of the most erotic I have ever read."
    ok, there is a sentence you don't read every day.

    as good as your review is, I can't read this book. Yet. I have to work my way through the series!

  2. Caite - believe me when I say it won't be work...You have plenty of time to luxuriate in them leading up to next April. Enjoy.


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