This is the fourth in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. This is one of the few series I read, and I enjoyed this just as much as the earlier volumes. As always, the action takes place in Millers Kill, a town in New York’s Adirondacks region. Clare (an Episcopal priest) and Russ (the police chief) inevitably find themselves working together on a situation affecting the community, and equally inevitably the romantic sparks fly, but the dramatic tension remains.
This book differs from the others in that it takes place in a 24-hour period. Clare is called out early one morning to volunteer for a a search and rescue operation. Millie van der Hoeven, a young heiress and environmental activist, has gone missing. Haudenosaunee, the van der Hoeven estate, is being sold into preservation. A banquet and dance are planned for the evening, to sign official documents and celebrate the handover. But the environment benefits are offset by impact on local industry, since the property will no longer be available for logging. It’s never simple, and emotions run high.
Russ gets involved a couple of hours later, as the missing person case develops into something more complex. Interestingly, the reader knows more details than either Russ or Clare. We know what’s happened to the missing person. We know the details of an assault, and a mistaken identity. We know exactly who the good guys and bad guys are, and can only watch as Clare and Russ work it out. So of course, this had me wondering how Julia Spencer-Fleming would wrap things up. I mean, if I already knew everything there was to know, then where was the mystery?
Well of course there is one, and it sure did sneak up on me, delivering the “oompf” one comes to expect from a good mystery novel. And it left me eager to read more from Julia Spencer-Fleming.