In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter

Book - 2003
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Heavy Snow...Icy Desires...Cold-Blooded Murder

Clare Fergusson, St. Alban's new priest, fits like a square peg in the conservative Episcopal parish at Millers 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 shepherd 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...

In the Bleak Midwinter was Julia Spencer-Fleming's first novel, and it won a Macavity Award, an Agatha Award, an Anthony Award, and a Dilys Award.

Publisher: New York : St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2003.
ISBN: 9780312986766
0312986769
Characteristics: 370 p. ;,18 cm.

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m
mdawnott
Jan 21, 2021

3.75 stars

I started this book with equal parts excitement and trepidation. As an Episcopalian, the thought of a mystery with a Episcopal priest as one-half of the duo was right up my alley. However, I also strongly dislike mysteries where someone who has no business solving crimes is the one solving the crime. Was this going to be that kind of book?

The answer is...mostly not. Most of was Clare does during this book falls into congregational care and such and it is mostly Russ, the police chief, who does the police-type stuff. Mostly.

There are a couple of scenes in the book where this sort of went out the window and where Clare oversteps her pastoral boundaries (and where, honestly, she should have just called the police). Yes, I did find this annoying, but fortunately the other strengths of the book outweighed that.

As far as mysteries go, this is a well-crafted on. I had numerous incorrect theories about who the culprit was up until the moment that Spencer-Fleming makes it clear who the real villain is. That is something that doesn't happen nearly enough in my mystery reading. I also felt that Clare and Russ's relationship was interesting and Spencer-Fleming made it incredibly human. I am wary and curious of where it will go in future books.

And I will read on in this series. This was an enjoyable (and appropriately tense) reading experience and is the exact sort of stuff I want from my mysteries!

v
vkreads
Mar 25, 2019

1st book in the series of 9 titles thru yr 2020.
Enjoyable reading; intelligent writing. very popular author; popular series;
Might be called a series as fitting into the Clerical Detective genre.

It's early winter, but very cold and snowy; Reverend Clare, the newly hired woman Episcopal priest and Pastor ... St. Alban's Church in a town of 12,000; New England; Adirondak area;

Clare is a former military helicopter pilot, a person trained in a variety of survival skills.
To learn more about her new assignment in the town's community, Clare "call me Clare"
pairs herself up with the local Chief of Police, Russ, and ... goodness...Reverend Clare shows a sense of internal direction guiding her investigative skills, and holds fast to her personal commitment to show people an attitude of 'care' in all variety of life, death, and murder circumstances.

And so --- The cop and the Priest....each have their stories to tell.
Reverend Clare expresses the values of caring for people which is a backbone structure of the plot, filled with the tensions of how people differ in motivation, class, status, behaviors, etc.
Clare is most definitely not a sissy.
next in the series is A Fountain Filled With Blood and 3rd is Out of the Deep I Cry.

r
Roxanne52
Mar 04, 2018

Freezing weather, cool reception for a newly appointed pastor, cold hearted murder, chilling suspense...and surprise after surprise. You think you know who committed the murder, until the second murder...by the third murder you are not so sure; there is always another possibility. You want to remind the detective he's a married man, the priest to buy a pair of snow boots and to stop butting into police business, when she hardly knows her flock, and, yes, you want a sip of the church sherry to make it through the twists.

A great diversion... Read It!

r
Roundcat
Mar 25, 2017

The two main characters of this first book in a series are both vulnerable, likeable people who are drawn to each other because of their military backgrounds. They work together to solve the problems posed by the abandoned baby and the deaths that follow. I would not call this a cozy. Reverend Clare fights her way out of an ambush in the mountains during a snowstorm because of her rigorous survival training. Judging by the attitudes of the leaders of her congregation, I think St. Albans is in for some overdue changes, so further books in this series should be very interesting both from the viewpoint of the mysteries to be solved and the well-fleshed out minor characters. I look forward to meeting more citizens of Millers Kill and of St. Albans church. The principles of Clare and Russ as regards their attraction to each other, should make for some tension in forthcoming books. This series should make exciting Christian based reading.

h
htliang
Oct 24, 2016

If you like mysteries set in cold climates, you'll enjoy this book. As you cosy-up in front of your fire with a cup of tea, you can read about snow, freezing temperatures, and winter driving.

Ex-Army pilot, Clare Fergusson, becomes the first female priest in a small, upstate New York town. One cold night she finds a newborn baby boy abandoned on the church step. A short time later, a young woman's body is found. As Clare works with Police Chief Russ Van Alystyne to find the killer, she struggles with her growing attraction toward the married man.

Great novel with lots of humor, likeable characters, and an interesting plot. This is the first in the series, so I'm going to definitely read the second (A Fountain Filled With Blood) and third (Out of the Deep I Cry). I'm always happy to find a great author who gives me lots to read!

l
LadyJaneBrais
Jun 12, 2016

Really entertaining, well written whodunit, the first of a series about this town. Characters are interesting and seem very real to this reader. I look forward to enjoying the rest of the series. The library does not have the 2nd book in the series, "A Fountain Filled With Blood", however, I bought it on Ebay . Or the 3rd book, "To Darkness and to Death, I also bought on Ebay.

h
horthhill
Jan 11, 2016

"In the Bleak Midwinter" by Julia Spencer-Fleming was not a bad mystery. There was a nice balance between the detecting of the two sleuths - Russ and Clare - and there was a nice balance between the church and police work. My only complaint was the couple of chapters where Clare is having her back country adventure with the bad guy. Plot holes and awkward description marred this bit. Mind you it still read as thrilling. On a good note, tying Cody to the train tracks was avoided.

b
bookie66
Sep 21, 2015

It has been years since a book
has kept me up so late. Really great book. Love her writing style.

c
Chapel_Hill_KenMc
Dec 22, 2014

Deftly written characters and a fast pace make this a superior small-town mystery. Spencer-Fleming pairs an ex-military female helicopter pilot with admirable survival skills, now an Episcopalian priest, with a rather stereotypical hard-boiled but soft-hearted police chief. They make for some entertaining repartee and romantic sparks that are sure to develop in the succeeding books in the series. This first book was the winner of all the top mystery fiction prizes in 2002.

l
lpreston214
May 24, 2013

A new series for me. I think I found this series by checking out another author's recommendations at the bottom of their page on Fantastic Fiction. FF is a great source in case you've never tried it. Anyway, I went into this with some trepidation because the main character is an Episcopal priest. However, she's definitely not traditional and I enjoyed her very much. Good characters and good mystery.

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