I knew I'd get to it, and boy, am I ever glad I did. I have really enjoyed this whole series (this is #8). Even when the case on which Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne are working may have strained credulity, the developments in their personal relationship over the series has always been worth following. This time, though, both the plot and character development were equally compelling.
In this instance, as Clare and Russ are preparing to leave on their delayed honeymoon all hell breaks loose. Freakish winter storms (not unlike the ones that actually did happen this winter across the country) are moving in to the Adirondacks; a young girl is discovered missing when the home of her foster parents is burned to the ground with them in it; the future of Russ' police department is in jeopardy from a cost-cutting notion that would eliminate the local force in favor of state control; and the relationship between two other characters (Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn) continues on its torturous path. Oh, and Clare's ill-timed pregnancy is an issue for the diocese in which she serves, and she faces the very real possibility that she may lose her parish, if not her called career.
What I appreciate so much about Spencer-Fleming's novels is the way in which Clare struggles when her faith and calling collide with her "real life." I hope that the clerics in my life have these same struggles. I wouldn't give a plug nickel for one who didn't have to wrestle the angel every now and again, frankly.
My only real quibble with this one is that the resolution of Clare's problems with the diocese didn't ring true, but then again, I'm not an Episcopalian, and I don't know anything about their church law, so it might be that I'm quibbling for no good reason.
If you have not read any of these novels, for heaven's sake don't start with this one. Do yourself a favor and read them all, in order, beginning with In the Bleak Midwinter. But if you are a fan, no matter why you may have waited to read it, you will not be disappointed when you do get around to picking it up.
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