One was a Soldier - the book preceding this one in the series about Clare Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne. After reading the closing line, I threw the previous book across the room yelling - "NO....you can't leave us hanging like this!"
30 plus months later, we are finally able to pick up the story. All of us who are fans of this wonderful cast of characters have been holding our collective breath to see what's going to happen. I really hate to give too much away so that readers who have not read the earlier books can have the fun of catching up before this one hits the bookshelves November 5th.
But it does pick up just where the last one ended. So let's catch up a bit. Clare Ferguson is an Episcopal priest and an Army Air National Guard Helicopter pilot. After she returned from a very stressful tour in Afghanistan, her PTSD led to drug and alcohol problems, not to mention testy scenes with the love of her life, Russ Van Alstyne. Russ, recently widowed Vietnam era vet, is Chief of Police of Millers Kill NY, where Clare's parish is located. After a long and tumultuous courtship, they have recently married and are determined to have the honeymoon they about were unable to have during the previous book. Russ has found the perfect place - about an hour out of town on a quiet lake, there is a rustic cabin for sale. It has no electricity, no plumbing, no phone line, and a big frozen pond where he is going to teach Clare the fine art of ice fishing. He wants to buy it, and this is the perfect opportunity for them to check it out to see if this could become their hideaway retreat. Clare reluctantly agrees to check it out. After all, they're both veterans of Army survival training, so what's the big deal about no power, running water or phone?
The big deal is that Clare is under pressure from her vestry to resign because of some transgressions (the cliff hangar from the last book) and Russ is facing the dismantling of his small town police force by the town council who claim the state police can provide coverage for much less money. Neither tells the other about the impending axes about to fall. Each figures that a week away from pressure will guide them to an answer. Neither counts on the storm of the century isolating them so totally that the situation becomes extremely dangerous. Neither counts on a seriously ill 7 year old being kidnapped back in Millers Kill while the police force is understaffed. Neither counts on becoming entangled with a gang of drug dealers operating nearby.
The story of Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn - members of the MK police force whose on again, off-again relationship is off at the beginning of the book- find themselves thrown back together as partners when they are assigned to lead the search team for the missing child. This relationship has quietly developed over the last several books, and I found myself especially interested in seeing it blossom. In fact, it is becoming as compelling as the Clare and Russ story.
Spencer-Fleming is a master at blending multiple story-lines, a fairly large cast of characters and a setting untamed enough to foster all kinds of evil doings. This one does not disappoint. It is fast paced, taking place over a short week that to the participants must have seemed like a year. It has new characters arriving, old friends still there (although a few are more on the fringes with this one), and a very well plotted mystery with several "Wow, where did that come from?" plot twists.
And now, in her usual white knuckle routine, Spencer-Fleming leaves us yelling at the end again. "NO---don't leave it like this!!!" Please Julia, don't make us wait another 30 months. At least we'll have time to read the whole series again. They are definitely books that don't get old with re-reading.
Go pre-order. If this isn't the best one yet, it's sure close to whatever is.