Fourth mystery in the series featuring small-town police chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson.
It's 5 AM on Saturday, and the search and rescue squad of Millers Kill, New York, has been called out to search for Millie van der Hoeven, who's apparently gotten lost somewhere in the woods on her family's vast estate. That estate is about to be sold to an environmental group, which plans to stop all logging on the property, putting many of the town's citizens out of work, and threatening the local paper mill, which relies on pulp from those woods. The contracts are to be signed, and the sale celebrated, at a dinner/dance that night which will also serve as the grand opening event for the new chichi resort that's been built just outside town.
As always, Spencer-Fleming gives us characters who are neither pure heroes nor complete villains; we can always empathize with them, even as we realize how horribly wrong their actions are. The several strands of the plot are woven smoothly together by the end, and the ongoing personal story of Russ and Clare (they've fallen in love, but he's married, and while she's not required to be celibate, adultery isn't really an option for a priest) takes another step forward.
This isn't the best book in the series (that would be the third installment, Out of the Deep I Cry); the final series of revelations and plot twists come a bit too fast and furious, crammed into the very last pages of the book. And Russ and Clare are a bit too far in the background much of the time, with most of the story involving the interactions of other characters with relatively little room for detecting or plotting by our heroes. But even if it's not Spencer-Fleming at her very best, it's still a brisk and lively read, and a worthy installment in one of the most entertaining mystery series to come along in recent years.