Friday, March 7, 2014


If you like exciting endings, you should like Julia Spencer-Fleming's A Fountain Filled With Blood.

Seemingly-organized thugs in Millers Kill, New York, are terrorizing homosexuals, attacking them, beating them almost to death.

Then someone kills a gay resort developer in town to oversee the building of a luxury hotel.

Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne investigates with the local Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson in tow. (Except that Clare is never in tow. She determinedly presses into the investigation.) Together they solve the crime.

Clare, of course, does all kinds of impulsive things. She investigates where she should not investigate. She and Russ close the story with hair-raising heroics.

The books ends with one villain still in place waiting for later episodes in the series.

My wife and I are reading through this series. (I think she has read all the books written so far.) She likes the books for their characters. Though she doesn't often read violent books, she does like these.

And I like the portrayal of an impulsive woman minister who tests the limits of ministerial ethics. She cares for people more than doctrine, something I admire, but she gets herself in some surprising fixes.

Clare sings hymns, does worship services using The Book of Common Prayer, and even struggles with the church board. Clare is also a retired Army helicopter pilot.

Both my wife and I like the way these books involve real issues. The stories aren't distant or remote. We see violent homophobia, PTSD, the human feelings ministers often hide from their parishioners.

All in all, the Clare Fergusson books are good reading.



“Don't be afraid or embarrassed to reach out to God the Comforter if you feel the urge. You can always go back to being an agnostic after Emil is well. I won't tell on you.”
          --Clare to a man whose partner has been beaten almost to death.
There's 'I'm right' and there's 'what's right', her grandmother Fergusson had always said. You can't have but one of them. Which one will it be?
“I'm discovering that I have to work at making this my place of worship, and not just my place of employment.”
          --Clare's comment which many ministers will understand.


Cath said...

I've read just the first two of this series and like them very much. I like Clare a lot and I suppose, as well as the crime element, I also like the romantic slant to them as well. I also love the New York state setting... from my UK point of view it sounds amazing with the mountains and the isolation. I have the next two and must get on and read them.

(I wandered in via Kittling Books' blog in case you were wondering.)

Joe Barone said...

My wife has read the whole series. She loved them. I too am about to start the third. As a retired minister, I see these as a different kind of minister mysteries, more real in so many ways. I' glad you wandered over.