Tuesday, August 10, 2010

a review of "To Darkness and to Death" [60]

To Darkness and to Death (A Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery) by Julia Spenser-Fleming
St. Martin's Paperbacks, ISBN 978-0312988876
May 30, 2006, 370 pages

As the autumn day begins in the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, not everything is as peaceful as it might appear on the surface. One man sits holding his gun, thinking about how he is being forced to sell out his business, another rises from a sleepless night, in a cold sweat about what he must do that day and a young woman regains consciousness, to find herself gagged and bound and alone.

It is going to be a very busy day for the residents of Millers Kill, a day that will change the lives of many forever. The woods that surround the town, the woods that are at heart of the lives of so many, are about to undergo a huge change. The vast estate of the van der Hoeven family is about to be sold and then given to a conservation group that will stop the logging, the logging that provided the livelihood for many. This deal is to be formalized at a fancy dinner at the brand new local resort, an event that will be attended by many of our cast of characters. Not everyone is happy about this turn of events, and when the Reverend Clare Fergusson is awoken very early in the morning to join a search team for the missing Millie van der Hoeven, one of the three sibling heirs of the estate, it is impossible to not consider foul play. Clare's preparation for the arrive of a visit from her bishop that may determine her future in Millers Kill will just have to wait.

Meanwhile, her very good friend and local police chief Russ Van Alstyne, wants nothing more than to spend his 50th birthday in the woods with a friend, hunting. Well, at least until he has to change into an unaccustomed tuxedo and accompany his wife to the big party that night. But as the day tumbles on and several of our cast of characters get caught up in events...and get involved in making some very bad, very stupid decisions.. we know that is not to be. Blackmail, revenge, assault, lies, a death from decades ago and a present day murder, will be the order of the day. And of course, once more Clare and Russ will be forced to consider just where their relationship is heading. Yes, it is going to be one very busy day in this small town.

This is the fourth book in this series and while it was a pretty enjoyable book, I must say it is my least favorite of those I have read so far. The fact that the whole book takes place in one very long day and involves a very large cast of characters is, I think part of the problem. There are several sub-plots going on at once and the whole story get a little frantic and convoluted. And then there is the issue of the stupid decisions, the many, many stupid decisions, that a few of the characters make. And make. And make some more. Yes, stupid people, especially people under a great deal of pressure, do not always think too clearly, but it is carried to lengths that start to become unbelievable and annoying. This is not so much a mystery as a comedy of errors.

Now, that being said, those flaws being pointed out, this is still much I liked about this book. OK, let's be honest. The most interesting thing about this book is the chance to see where the relationship between Russ and Clare is going and in that regard, this book does not disappoint. Clare, ex-army helicopter pilot and the minister at the local Episcopal church, is a great character. Even though I was disappointed to see she has not let bought a sensible vehicle... Her relationship with the married chief of police, a friendship that has grown into something else, is fraught with problems, and I love that this series does not try to gloss over those issues or make them less than they are. Yes, sparks are a'flying and where there are sparks, there may soon be fire. And in a fire, real or figurative, people can get hurt.

This is a very good series, with some great characters and a great setting in the Adirondack Mountains of NY State. While I though this book was weaker than some of the others, for fans of Russ and Clare, it is a must read.


  1. Ack! Another series! I can't keep up...

  2. but this is a good one!
    if you didn't get involved in all those challenges, you would have lots of time...lol

  3. I think every series suffers a slump at some point, and it sounds like this one only suffers a mild one. Great review!

  4. Sounds like the heat between Russ and Clare is going to ignite soon.

    I haven't read this series but a weak book in one can keep going if the relationships develop ... and it seems that is happening with this one.

  5. Hey Hi..!!
    This is really good review..
    keep it up..

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  6. 0H-you're getting close now. As you mentioned, this plot was more than a tad weaker than the others, but the relationship is what all of us fans are really interested in. You will love the next two?, and then we'll all just have to take a deep breath and wait til next april....

  7. of course now I have to read the next one, to see what happens with Russ and Clare..otherwise, I might not.


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