Book Reviews

In the Bleak Midwinter (The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1) by Julia Spencer-Fleming

In the Bleak MidwinterTitle: In the Bleak Midwinter (The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1)
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Rating: ★★★

Heavy Snow…Icy Desires…Cold-Blooded Murder

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 pilot, and nobody’s fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town’s police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who’s also ex-Army and a cynical good shepherd for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby’s mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other—and murder…

In the Bleak Midwinter was Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first novel, and it won a Macavity Award, an Agatha Award, an Anthony Award, and a Dilys Award.

Everyone loves a good murder mystery…even a reverend! However, this was more like a romance novel to me.

I loved the mystery aspect of the novel. There was red herring after red herring. The mystery itself was clever, fast-paced, and mysterious.

The part I didn’t like was the characters. Russ Van Alstyne is the local sheriff, ex-military, and kind of just does as he pleases. Clare Fergusson is the new reverend in town. She is ex-military, young, and way too involved in the murder. Both characters are morally gray. Russ is married and Clare is a reverend, about twenty years younger than Russ. Plus, I believe Clare is way more involved than anyone of that stature would ever be realistically. Of course, because they are spending so much time together, they start to find an attraction towards one another.

The reason this novel fell flat with me was because of the characters and the love interest brewing between them. Had that not been in the picture, or even slightly, this novel would’ve received a higher rating. It was the typical girl is doing something goofy, guy notices and thinks is “cute”, eventually saves girl because she gets into trouble being too nosey, they then share a moment, and realize they love each other.

What would’ve made this a more pleasurable read would’ve been honing in on the mystery aspect, leaving out the romantic mush, and creating stronger characters. This easily could’ve been a five-star read without the romantic intentions.

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