Welcome back, Ms. Spencer-Fleming

The New York Times Book Review by Marilyn Stasio

It’s such a cheat to throw suspicion on the clearly blameless protagonist of your story, yet writers do it all the time. Even a pro like Julia Spencer-Fleming, whose mysteries featuring Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne are such a pleasure, resorts to that narrative device. In HID FROM OUR EYES (Minotaur, 339 pp., $27.99), Van Alstyne, now the police chief of the rugged Adirondacks town of Millers Kill, came under suspicion in 1972, when a dead woman in a white lace minidress turned up in the middle of Route 137. Now, another victim — “pretty, young, all dressed up, with no shoes or pantyhose” — brings back this lawman’s memories of what it’s like to be innocent but unable to prove it.

Because Millers Kill is a small town, the mystery unfolds like a classic country whodunit, complete with lurid back stories for all the righteous grown-ups. And because Van Alstyne is married to an Episcopal priest who is expecting their first child, the human elements cushion the scenes of violence. Tough, but kind of sweet, if you know what I mean.

My review of this book:

Julia Spencer-Fleming pens one of the best mystery series around. I recommend her books most highly and I have read them all, starting with In the Bleak Midwinter. The setting is upstate New York and the region is brought to life in a way that makes a reader feel that they are there. The protagonists, Clare and Russell are adults with histories; both were in the military. Clare is now an Episcopal priest while Russ is the head of the Millers Kill Police Department. Over the course of the series, readers get to know these real, flawed and genuine adults well.

It is best to read this series in order. Long term readers will be ecstatic to spend time with Russ, Clare and those in their world after a long hiatus between the last book and this one. In this entry the main story is complex as it involves three murders; one took place in the 50s, one in the 70s. No spoilers so I can’t say more.

If you know Clare and Russ, I hope that you will be as delighted as I was by their return. If you are new to the series, you are lucky as you have nine books to look forward to. Mystery readers, please check this series out. Ms. Spencer-Fleming, you have not lost your touch!

Many, many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for this read in exchange for an honest review.

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