Monday, August 31, 2009

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Reverend Clare Fergusson, the newly installed Episcopalian minister in upstate Miller's Kill, New York, has a lot to learn about the community, so when she discovers a newborn baby in a cardboard box near the church, she takes the opportunity to align herself with a married couple from her congregation who are interested in adopting the baby. Unfortunately, when the baby's mother, Katie, is discovered murdered, the husband of the couple turns out to be Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne's number one suspect.

Clare and Russ discover they share a background in the military as well as a common interest in solving the crime, and they form sort of a "good cop - bad cop" team, with Clare taking on a more human interest in the involved parties and Russ sticking to the facts. Their friendship grows beyond their common interests, however, as the mystery behind who murdered Katie grows when her father is also found murdered. When Clare finds herself in imminent danger, it is Russ who discovers her whereabouts and attempts to come to her aid before she becomes an additional fatality.

While I wouldn't label this book a cozy mystery, it isn't terribly gruesome or violent, and it does feature some mild swearing. It is an engaging, intelligent plot with memorable characters, and features a charming small town with some not-so-charming crimes. Russ and Clare are both likable and worthy as the hero and heroine, but Russ's marriage throws a little wrench into their blossoming friendship. Best of all, it is the first in a series, so if you like this particular book, it is easy to figure out what to read next!

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