Title: In the Bleak Midwinter
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
Release Date: March 4, 2002
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When a baby is left on the doorstep of St. Alban’s Church with a note asking the child be given to a St. Alban’s couple desperate to adopt, Rev. Clare Fergusson contacts the prospective parents about the baby. However, once Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne becomes involved in the case, she realizes she may have inadvertently made the case more complicated and becomes determined to help out in any way she can.
In the Bleak Midwinter is a gripping mystery that centers around the relationship between the two main characters, Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. At first, their relationship is purely professional, but as they work together to figure out the mystery behind the baby’s appearance on the church’s doorstep and realize things are much more complicated than they first appeared, they become closer. The relationship never becomes intimate – after all, Russ is married – but it’s clear that there is mutual trust and respect, and that there is some chemistry there, however inappropriate.
Both Russ and Clare are intricately drawn and wonderfully written characters. Clare is not what you’d expect of a priest; she is open and flexible, a great role model for those who attend her church. She genuinely wants to help people. She’s smart and wise beyond her years. She is really what makes the book worth reading, as she is such an engaging character.
The mystery in In the Bleak Midwinter is very intriguing. Spencer-Fleming allows the plot to unfold slowly and naturally, such that she introduces game changing events a few times over the book’s course. It’s incredibly interesting and I was very impressed with the quality of the mystery.
In the Bleak Midwinter is the first in the Rev. Clare Fergusson mystery series, and I am certain I will be continuing with the series. I heard from many people that this was a book to read, and I only regret that I took so long to do so. If you’re a fan of mysteries, or even just a casual reader of the genre, I highly recommend giving this book a try and seeing if you enjoy it as much as I did.