In this second of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, a series of hate crimes against gays brings the duo together again. Clare is a thirty-ish Episcopal priest; Russ is the 48-year-old Chief of Police in Millers Kill, a small town in New York’s Adirondacks region.
Clare is still relatively new to the community and while she has demonstrated an ability to inspire, counsel, and lead her congregation, she has also unsettled them with some of her liberal views. In this book she provides pastoral counseling to gay assault victims and their partners, and takes up the cause of gay rights issue within her congregation by organizing a vigil. Through her profession Clare gains entry into unusual situations that provide insight to the crimes, and then can’t resist going one step further (some might say one step too far) with further investigation. Armed with clues, she constantly badgers Russ to acknowledge a link between each case. Russ initially rejects Clare’s involvement but as the crimes escalate, their collaboration becomes essential.
Where the first book in this series drew more on Russ’ talents as a law enforcement officer and Clare was the error-prone but well-intentioned assistant, this story is all about Clare. In a hilarious party scene, Clare gleans important clues but not without making a fool of herself. She also takes charge during a thrilling chase near the end, drawing on her Army training. Russ remains, as always, a dependable friend … or perhaps something more? Russ is married, but his wife is always absent. Each character acknowledges their feelings for the other, but only to themselves. This is definitely a side story, but every time the two were alone together, I found myself wondering if this would be the big moment. Nah … maintaining this dramatic tension is all part of the fun!