Novels of Faith, Murder and Suspense

by Julia Spencer-Fleming

When I started writing In the Bleak Midwinter, I was hard-pressed to imagine it ever getting published, let alone kicking off a series that now stands at seven books and counting. Every author gets asked, “Does it get easier?” Oh, how I wish it did. But even on days when every word produced feels like it’s been dug out of a lead mine, I find I'm still fascinated by Clare Fergusson, Russ Van Alstyne, and all the other inhabitants of their small Adirondack town. I used to say I'd finish the series by the fifth book. Then by the sixth. I've given up predicting the future. Until the time ever comes when I have no more stories to tell about St. Alban's Episcopal Church and the Millers Kill Police Department, I'll keep writing. I hope you'll keep reading.

I Shall Not Want

I Shall Not Want (2008)

Millers Kill reaches the boiling point in this white-hot novel of love and suspense. People die. Marriages fail. In the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, New York, however, life doesn’t stop for heartbreak. A brand-new officer in the police department, a breaking-and-entering, and trouble within his own family keep Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne busy enough to ignore the pain of losing his wife—and the woman he loves.

At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, the Reverend Clare Fergusson is trying to keep her vestry, her bishop, and her National Guard superiors happy—all the while denying her own wounded soul.

When a Mexican farmhand stumbles over a Latino man killed with a single shot to the back of his head, Clare is sucked into the investigation through her involvement in the migrant community. The discovery of two more bodies executed in the same way ignites fears that a serial killer is loose in the close-knit community. While the sorrowful spring turns into a scorching summer, Russ is plagued by media hysteria, conflict within his department, and a series of baffling assaults.

As the violence strikes closer and closer to home, an untried officer is tested, a wary migrant worker is tempted, and two would-be lovers who thought they had lost everything must find a way to trust each other again—before it becomes forever, fatally, too late.

Julia Spencer-Fleming shows you can escape danger—but not desire—in her most suspenseful, passionate novel yet.
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“Tantalizing…Keenly moving and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, this is a tour de force in a series that seems to have jumped several levels in quality.”
—Booklist (starred review)

All Mortal Flesh

All Mortal Flesh (2006)

One horrible murder. Two people destined for love or tragedy. Obsession. Lies. Nothing is as it seems in Millers Kill, where betrayal twists old friendships and evil waits inside quaint white clapboard farmhouses.

Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne’s first encounter with Clare Fergusson was in the hospital emergency room on a freezing December night. A newborn infant had been abandoned on the town’s Episcopal church steps. If Russ had known that the church had a new priest, he certainly would never have guessed that it would be a woman. Not a woman like Clare. That night in the hospital was the beginning of an attraction so fierce, so forbidden, that the only thing that could keep them safe from compromising their every belief was distance — but in a small town like Millers Kill, distance is hard to find.

Russ Van Alstyne figures his wife kicking him out of their house is nobody’s business but his own. Until a neighbor pays a friendly visit to Linda Van Alstyne and finds the woman’s body, gruesomely butchered, on the kitchen floor. To the state police, it’s an open-and-shut case of a disaffected husband, silencing first his wife, then the murder investigation he controls. To the townspeople, it’s proof that the whispered gossip about the police chief and the priest was true. To the powers-that-be in the church hierarchy, it’s a chance to control their wayward cleric once and for all.
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“[A] dizzying roller coaster of a ride, with one wholly unexpected plot twist after another following in rapid succession. And just when things seem sorted out at last, the author has one last surprise in store for the reader, one that raises all sorts of questions about where the series is headed.”
—Denver Post

To Darkness and to Death

To Darkness and to Death (2005)

Julia Spencer-Fleming raises the stakes in the fourth entry in her best-selling series set in the quiet town of Millers Kill, New York. Taking a cue from the smash hit television series, 24 Hours, the thrilling plot of her latest plays out over a single day. An early morning missing persons report sends Chief van Alstyne scrambling to one of the last great Adirondack summer estates. One of the heirs to a fortune is missing amidst evidence of foul play. As Clare and Russ race against time to solve the mystery, an unseen hand seeks to foil the search, destroy key evidence, and destroy the searchers as well. As the tension ratchets up, will Russ and Clare succeed in keeping their growing bond a secret from others, or even from themselves?

Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson and married police chief Russ Van Alstyne are constantly battling the growing attraction between them, but each time they promise themselves to stay apart, a crime in their small upstate New York town pulls them together. It’s a woman’s disappearance that roils the peace of Millers Kill this time. Family heirs are on the verge of selling one of the last Adirondack “camps”–grand mansions built in the woods or on the lakeshore, where their wealthy owners go to “rough it” in the summer. This particular camp is about to be sold, but contention over the woman’s disappearance holds up the final signing.
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“Add harrowing tension à la TV’s 24 to Julia Spencer-Fleming’s always lyrical prose and beautifully drawn characters, and you have one of the year’s must-reads! Spencer-Fleming has topped an already shining series with this fourth outing.”
—Deborah Crombie, award-winning author of Dreaming of the Bones and In a Dark House

Out of the Deep I Cry

Out of the Deep I Cry (2004)

In Agatha winner Spencer-Fleming's triumphant third novel, Clare Fergusson, Anglican priest and ex-army helicopter pilot, and Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne investigate the hidden secrets, past and present, of a prominent Millers Kill, N.Y., family-and must also face the hidden secrets of their own hearts.

On April 1, 1930, Jonathan Ketchem’s wife Jane walked from her house to the police department to ask for help in finding her husband. The men, worn out from a night of chasing bootleggers, did what they could. But no one ever saw Jonathan Ketchem again…

Now decades later, someone else is missing in Miller’s Kill, NY. This time it’s the physician of the clinic that bears the Ketchem name. Suspicion falls on a volatile single mother with a grudge against the doctor, but Reverend Clare Fergusson isn’t convinced. As Clare and Russ investigate, they discover that the doctor’s disappearance is linked to a bloody trail going all the way back to the hardscrabble Prohibition era. As they draw ever closer to the truth, their attraction for each other grows increasingly more difficult to resist. And their search threatens to uncover secrets that snake from one generation to the next-and to someone who’s ready to kill.
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“The third and most densely textured mystery in a series by Julia Spencer-Fleming that brings new airs and graces to the traditional small-town mystery...the rich heritage of this Adirondack Mountain region also gives depth and complexity to the crimes that the well-matched pair must solve together...yes, this is a very small town, but under Spencer-Fleming's grave and tender touch it becomes a world that you want to visit and hate to leave.”
—The New York Times Book Review

A Fountain Filled With Blood

A Fountain Filled With Blood (2003)

It's summertime in the Adirondack town of Millers Kill, and temperatures are running high. Local activists are up in arms over a resort being built at the site of an old toxic waste dump. A series of violent homophobic assaults have left several men hospitalized. And Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson are discovering that it's impossible to ignore the heat. When the resort developer, a gay man, is found brutally murdered, Clare and Russ will have to face up to their own past demons–and their present temptations–to sweat out the truth behind the killing.

Nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks, Miller’s Kill, New York is about as safe as it gets. That’s why Episcopal minister Clare Fergusson is shocked when the July Fourth weekend brings a rash of vicious assaults to the scenic town. Even Clare’s good friend, police chief Russ Van Alstyne, is shaken by the brutality of the crimes-especially when it appears that the victims were chosen because they are gay. But when a third assault of an out-of-town developer ends in murder, Clare and Russ wonder if the recent crime wave is connected to the victim’s controversial plan to open an upscale spa in Miller’s Kill. But not all things in the tiny town are what they seem-and soon, Clare and Russ are left to fight their unspoken attraction to one another even as they uncover a labyrinthine conspiracy that threatens to turn deadly for them both…
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“Spencer-Fleming's second cozy-cum-thriller to feature the Reverend Clare every bit as riveting as her first...with eloquent exposition and natural dialogue, the precisely constructed plot moves effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter (2002)

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban's new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Miller's Kill, New York. She is not just a "lady"; she's a tough ex-Army chopper pilot and nobody's fool. Then a newborn infant left at the church door brings her together with the town's police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, who's also ex-Army and a cynical good shepard for the stray sheep of his hometown. Their search for the baby's mother quickly leads them into the secrets that shadow Millers Kill like the ever-present Adirondacks. What they discover is a world of trouble, an attraction to each other–and murder…
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“Spencer-Fleming hits a grand slam with In the Bleak Midwinter. The tension is constant. The dialogue is dead-on. The characters are interesting, thought provoking, and honest. The prose soars above the quality usually found in this genre. To top it all off, the story twists and turns to the last page.”
—Denver Rocky Mountain News