Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A review of "Out of the Deep I Cry" [12]

Out of the Deep I Cry (A Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312312626
April 26, 2004, 336 pages

In this, the third in the Fergusson-Van Alstyne series, once again we are back in the Adirondack Mountains of NY, in the town of Millers Kill. We will soon be pursuing mysteries of the past and of the present and following the latest development in the relationship of the Reverend Clare Fergusson, ex-military helicopter pilot and present day Episcopal priest of St. Alban's Church and Russ Van Alstyne, himself a retired career military man and now the town sheriff.

When the roof of the historic church springs a very bad leak, threatening to damage the stained glass windows and the beautiful interior and soon bring the roof in on their heads, Clare realizes they will have to come up with a good sum of money and come up with it quickly. So it seems like a godsend when one of the vestry members, Lacey Ketchem Marshall, offers to liquidate a trust fund that was left to her by her deceased mother to pay for the repairs. But Clare is not quite as happy to find that it will mean a loss of some of the funds that go to support the local free clinic, a clinic that was also founded by Mrs. Marshall's mother.

And that woman, Jane Ketchem, is also at the center of one of the mysteries in this book, a mystery that reaches back to the 1920's. She was a woman surrounded by tragedy, with the loss of 4 of her young children to diphtheria and then the loss of her husband, who just appears to have wandered off one evening, leaving not a trace. She was a woman who was a bit feared by some but also an admired woman, for her gifts to the town of the clinic, her gift of paying for the education of the doctor that has worked there for the last 30 years and leaving a trust that has helped support the clinic to the present day. But Clare can not help but wonder how a widow, seemingly a woman of modest means, with no job, was able to pull off that financial trick.

And it is that clinic doctor, Dr. Allan Rouse, whose disappearance is at the heart of the present day mystery. Everyone says he had been upset recently, maybe depressed, so did he kill himself, just wandering off on to the half frozen lake. Or did he make someone so angry that they lost control and did the unthinkable. It does not take the police long to find one very obvious suspect..but what happen to the body?

And then, of course, as with all the books in this series, we have the developing relationship between Clare and Russ. There is the problem that Russ is married, and actually in love with his wife, the wife that Clare actually gets to meet in this installment. But neither Clare nor Russ can deny that what they are feeling is more than friendship. Clare knows that she is playing with fire, and they both try to do the right thing...but doing the right thing is often easier said than done.

This is a series that really should be read in order...which attentive readers may have noticed I am not. Do as I say, not as I do!
But because of that, I know some of the developments in the whole Clare/Russ saga that take place in future books in the series, but worry not, I will spill no beans!
Still, what do they say...the course of true love is never smooth, and I must say that I find their relationship just a little annoying. They are always walking a fine line, with occasional trips over that line. Maybe Clare, the Good Reverend, needs to reread that part in the New Testament about how he..or she...who lusts in the heart commits adultery. I guess I should be happy in a book these days that the issue of being faithful to one's vows is considered important at all but still...
It also drives me nuts that Clare is still driving that totally impractical car in the snowy mountains in this installment. If she has to call AAA or get someone to tow her out of the snow one more time, I am going to scream...lol

But these small annoyances are far outweighed by a very well written and very engaging story, with a couple of good mysteries for the reader to figure out. The book takes us back and forth in time, from Jane Ketchem's story in the 1920's to the 1950's,  to the present day, and back again, revealing the information we need bit by bit.There are a number of interconnected plot lines, from the past and the present. This could have been confusing, but I think the author pulls it off very well. As in all the books in this series the author also weaves in a few timely issues, in this one foremost is the question of the safety of vaccinations and the storyline presents a conclusion that you may or may not agree with, but which is always interesting. And finally, as always in Fleming-Spenser books, at the heart of the mysteries are the stories of some great characters, well told, stories laced with guilt and heart breaking decisions and very real human emotions.

A very good series...and yes, one best read in order.


  1. OK, note to self, as I have a very bad habit of picking up series somewhere in the middle unknowingly. There are some series that don't require that, but in the case of a progressing relationship, order is important. I find it curious that a reverend is messing with a married man, even if it is only in her heart.

  2. Well, they ain't actually 'messing around' depending on how you define 'messing'. But something is going on, for sure.

  3. Caite, I've been reading this series in order (I am a "must read in order" person! LOL) - and I've gotten through this episode. I really need to get the intervening books read so that I'm prepared for the new one to be published this spring.

    I can't approve of Claire and Russ's relationship, but I think the author has done a good job of presenting two people who didn't intend to fall in love and who try to remain within the bounds of propriety. However, the car bugs me too and I have a feeling I know what will happen between the two of them. :-)

  4. I've always found that it's the well written characters that are annoying at times because they seem so real. This sounds like a series worth checking out.

  5. Yeah, that is the total worst, reading a book and only THEN finding out it's not the first in a series!

  6. yes, the relationship, which is ongoing and changing, is what makes reading this on in order so important. I think if you jumped into the middle you might be even more unforgiving, because as Kay said, the author made a case for how this came about.

    except, of course, for some reviewers that are cheering the possibility of adultery!

  7. Arrgh, I haven't read the first two but I do have this one on the shelf already. Guess I'll have to track down the first two since I fully intend to follow your directive not your actions, wee Caite! Thanks for the heads up on the order.

  8. Glad you are not a bean spiller!

    And after messing up one too many times with series, I'm going to be careful in the future and start all series at the beginning.

  9. I'm reading this one in order and I really, really like it. I wonder if knowing what happens has made you less tolerant for the early books. Or maybe I'm just more tolerant of Russ and Clare anyway... ???

  10. interesting question...I have to think about for a minute...
    ok, I am back..lol
    I still enjoy these earlier book, don't get me wrong. and I think what annoys me is that I feel I know these two people, I like these two people and I think they are being stupid. and they are not stupid people..

    Yes, later in the series we meet Russ's wife and "knowing" her makes it worse. And here and in future books we hear Russ protest his love again and again for his wife. and Clare tells us, again and again she knows she is playing with fire. Well then....STOP!
    stops the lunches, for heavens sake, stop the phone calls. Tell me, what wife would not be upset to find out her husband is having long, personal phone calls with a woman, a younger attractive woman?

    It is like Clare not buying boots in an Adirondack winter..or a car that is not a pretty toy. it is just dumb..and that bothers me.


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