Saturday, August 30, 2014

I SHALL NOT WANT by Julia Spencer-Fleming


Julia Spencer-Fleming’s I Shall Not Want has three love stories, three slam-bang endings, and a well-plotted, socially-conscious story.

The small Adirondack town of Millers’ Kill, New York, seems to be the domain of a serial killer. Townspeople find at least two murdered Mexican immigrants.  They may have been farmhands in the local dairy farms. (Struggling small dairy farmers cannot get along without immigrant farmhands.)

At the same time, Russ Van Alstyne and his force deal with a long-term family of thugs.

As the investigation proceeds, Russ learns of the extensive Mexican mob-run drug trafficking in the Miller’s Kill area.

All this comes to involve the Rev. Clare Fergusson and her Episcopal church. Clare teams up with a socially-active Catholic nun to support the immigrant cause.

She ends up housing a legal immigrant. He is the substitute sexton at the church.   

Those who have read the books in order, know that Clare and Russ are struggling with their relationship (to put it tamely). 

I Shall Not Want has realistic violence and explicit sex.

The story has the usual religious trappings, except they aren’t trappings. Clare’s religious beliefs and her love of liturgy are at the heart of the story.

I’ve said it before. These books are best read in order. Each is another episode in a continuing story. Spencer-Fleming writes about contemporary social and religious issues in a human context.

Clare is a citizen soldier, a National Guard helicopter pilot who happens to pastor a small town church. She is strong, impulsive, willing to butt in where she shouldn’t, and, most of all, a person with a strong moral compass. Both Clare and Russ are powerful characters.

I’m now reading Louise Penny’s The Long Way Home. (Talk about a surfeit of riches!)

I couldn’t help but be struck by the contrasts between the Penny and the Spencer-Fleming books. Inspector Gamache is quiet and cerebral. Much of the Three Pines story occurs in the characters’ minds. It is not that the Penny books don’t have setting and action, but it is the interior life of those characters that attracts me.

The Spencer-Fleming books are action oriented.

I am in mystery reading heaven to have these books to read back to back.

So, Clare’s and Russ’ stories continue.

I doubt the Millers Kill saga has a fully happy ending. The Clare Ferguson-Russ Van Alstyne books are too realistic for that.

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