I published a post in February about Ms Spencer-Fleming’s series of books featuring the Reverend Clare Fergusson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. I’m back again, and calling book number three, Out of the Deep I Cry, a Book of the Month because I am so impressed by this series. Julia Spencer-Fleming’s website calls her books “novels of faith and murder for readers of literary suspense” and that is indeed a good description.
The plot of Out of the Deep takes place in two eras, and the author moves us back and forth between these time periods effortlessly. The story involves the Millers Kill free medical clinic and the disappearance of its one doctor. Dr. Rouse’s disappearance and the funding of the clinic are intwined with the history of a old-time Millers Kill farming family, their tragic loss of four children to a 1920’s diptheria epidemic, the subsequent disappearnce of the father and the widow’s decision to fund a free clinic for the town. How the current doctor’s disappearance is tied to that family’s ill-fated history forms the basis of the story.
What makes this book so special is not the plot however, but the characters Spencer-Fleming creates, and especially the developing relationship between Clare and Russ. Reverend Fergusson and Sherrif Van Alstyne, from the moment they meet, know they are soul mates. The problem is that the sherif is, if not happily married, at least well content with Linda, his wife and honorably bound to keep his wedding vows. Clare is an Episcopal priest who has not taken vows of chastity, but who is certainly expected to set a moral example for her congregation, her Bishop - to say nothing of her own moral conscience.
Their struggles with temptation and attraction are the stuff of Greek tradgedy and Spencer-Fleming handles their emotional dilemmas and the story’s detective problems admirably. Meg