November 21, 2006

BOOKS: All Mortal Flesh, Julia Spencer-Fleming (2006)

Fifth in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series.

For four volumes now, Episcopal priest Clare and police chief Russ have struggled with their attraction to one another. There was a passionate kiss near the end of the previous volume, and both have reluctantly come to the conclusion that their relationship has crossed the lines of inappropriate behavior, even if only emotionally, and they should not see one another anymore.

Russ has confessed the kiss to his wife, Linda, who has thrown him out of their home, so it's not Russ who finds the body on his kitchen floor; it's Linda's best friend who reports that Linda's been murdered -- throat slashed and face repeatedly stabbed. The obvious suspects, of course, are Russ and Clare.

As always, Spencer-Fleming tells a terrific story and gives us a fine array of characters and suspects; the book ends, as is customary in this series, with an exciting set piece as the heroes confront the villain. The plot is twistier than usual, with surprises and reversals that may anger some readers, but I thought they were fairly set up and presented in convincing fashion. The final pages find Clare making a shocking decision, and it will be extremely interesting to see where the series goes from here.

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