Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a review of "All Mortal Flesh" [64]

All Mortal Flesh: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery by Julia Spenser-Fleming
Minotaur, ISBN 978-0312312640
October 3, 2006, 336 pages

What can I say, I am hooked on this series. So we are back again, this time with the fifth book in this entertaining, addictive, mystery series. The TBR pile sits there while I run off to the library to take out another book in this series.

When last we left them in book four, To Darkness and to Death, Clare Fergusson, ex-army helicopter pilot, present Episcopal priest and Russ Van Alstyne, ex-Army and present day Sheriff of Miller's Kill, NY have come to a critical point in their relationship. They started as friends, with a lot in common, including a certain crime investigation interest. But in time it has grown into something else, something neither of them wants to be true, but can't help. Russ is married, and while he and his wife have some problems, he still cares deeply for her. And Clare is not about to get involved..or any more involved...with a married man.

So Clare decides that she will not see Russ again, unless in an official capacity and Russ decides that he will admit to his wife that he is in love with another woman. I am sorry Russ, but you know that is not going to go over well.
As the book opens, Russ has been thrown out of his house and is living in his mom's extra room, a bit embarrassing for a 50 year old man. Meanwhile, Clare is on retreat in a borrowed cabin, trying to deal with a broken heart. She comes back to town to find that her bishop, with whom she has had some issues, has appointed a deacon to assist her...or perhaps to spy on her.

We know things will not remain so calm for long in little Miller's Kill. The body of a woman is found in her kitchen by a friend, stabbed and her face horribly disfigured. A terrible thing.
But even worse is that Russ and Clare are the prime suspects.

This series is really about two things, the mystery and the relationship. In this book, the mystery is pretty darn good. There are parts I figured out and parts that totally surprised me. Add a rip roaring climactic scene and it is a great combination. Ok, at times it is rather annoying how Clare runs off by herself to get involved in things the local parish priest might best leave to the professionals, but given her military background, it is not totally unbelievable.And it is annoying that Russ can't seem to keep his mouth shut when he should..but again, not totally unbelievable.
My one concern is the Cabot Cove Syndrome, how little Miller's Kill can possible have so many murderers and psychopaths in the immediate area. Golly, the per-capital murder rate must be higher than Detroit. Now, I have one more book in the series to read, at least until the next book comes out next year, and a desire to widen the field, as it were, may explain the surprise ending of this book...which you will have to read yourself to find out.

Then there is the relationship.
Again, here we have the good and the slightly annoying. Without question, the author has created some very likable major and minor characters, who draw us back again and again. They are flawed, far from perfect, but we still like them. The relationship of Clare and Russ has been handled in a pretty intelligent and thoughtful way. These people have obligations, vows, and they take them seriously. That is the good part. Except for when they do some things that are very stupid. That is the annoying part.

At least Clare finally got some real boots and a car suited to the snow of the mountains of NY State. Even if she only did it because her last car was blown up. Now if Russ could just learn to stop losing his temper and shooting his mouth off I would be a bit happier. They say love is blind. In these books, sometimes love is just stupid. But then, sometimes so are real people and for all their flaws, we come to think of these as real people who we care about.
And you can't ask more of a book, can you?

This can be read as a standalone book, but I really would recommend starting at the beginning of the series for maximum enjoyment.
A must read for fans of the Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series, a recommended series for lovers of entertaining mysteries with some great characters.


  1. It sounds like a series I could invest in. But one small part of me just wants to heave a big sigh thinking about starting a new one. I have so much baggage with my old ones!

  2. From the title, I thought you were reviewing a bodice ripper, so I did a double take at first. This does sound like a great series!

  3. the day I review a bodice ripper will be the day I close down "a lovely shore breeze"...lol

  4. Sounds like you are good and hooked. I love your observation about the high per capita murder rate!

  5. Oh dear, now you've done it.....went and got me interested in another series. That's just great.....grrr. ;)


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