Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"In the Bleak Midwinter" by Julia Spencer-Fleming

The 2003 Agatha Best First Novel winner pulled me in from the beginning to the end. Using the stark northeastern New York winter as a backdrop, the story follows newly ordained Episcopal Priest Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alystyne as they try to identify the parents of a newborn left at the church. The investigation intensifies when a young woman is murdered. Ultimately, the story intensifies putting the investigator's lives in danger. Coupled because of their mutual interest in ensuring the baby's welfare and the mutual "the buck stops here" attitudes toward their jobs, a romantic undertone permeates but doesn't get in the way of the story. While a few scenes seem somewhat contrived to enhance the plot and tension, numerous twists and turns keep the reader guessing as to the outcome. For mystery lovers, this is a five.


Austin Carr said...

Did you correctly guess the outcome?

Rick Bylina said...

Once the baby's father was identified (and the clue for that was long hidden), yes. But prior to that, she did a good job of keeping the reader off balance. Even after the father was revealed, she still has a few people in the running.