OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery
In Agatha winner Spencer-Fleming's triumphant third novel (after 2003's A Fountain Filled with Blood ), 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. When the roof of St. Alban's Episcopal Church springs a leak that threatens to destroy a beautiful stained-glass window, Clare calls an emergency vestry meeting only to discover that paying for the repairs is more complicated than she expected. Mrs. Marshall, a wealthy parishioner, agrees to donate the money, though it will mean the withdrawal of funds from the town health clinic. Shortly after hearing the news, Dr. Rouse, the clinic's respected director, disappears under baffling circumstances. Since her first outing, In the Bleak Midwinter (2002), Clare has grown in complexity, as shown in a number of exquisitely described scenes between her and Russ in the church. The season of Lent serves as a most fitting backdrop, starting with Ash Wednesday and culminating in the Great Easter Vigil. The author expertly portrays the power of grief, guilt, greed and love and their effect on good people in a story as chilling as the month of March in Millers Kill. A subtle sense of humor further enhances this poignant and provocative mystery. (Apr. 21)
Forecast: A national author tour soon after Easter can only help build Spencer-Fleming's fan base among mystery-loving Episcopalians and readers of thoughtful, sensitive fiction generally.