SPOILER ALERT!

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter - Julia Spencer-Fleming Clare Fergusson is, in many respects, a babe in the woods as she strives to deal with her first placement as a priest in upstate New York. She doesn't know much about northern winters and is trying to learn about her new community. Shortly after her arrival in Millers Kill, she discovers an abandoned newborn on the church steps. The mother has left a note indicating she wants the child placed with a well-known town couple and lawyers, Geoff and Karen Burns. What Rev. Fergusson presumes will be a clear-cut case of turning the infant over to the Burns becomes a lesson in red-tape. If there's one thing Clare understands it is red-tape and procedures from her years in the Army.

Russ Van Alstyne doesn't intend to come across as hard or mean, but he has rules and regulations to follow. The State of New York also has procedures to adhere to when a child has been abandoned. This situation causes a lot of tension between Van Alstyne and Rev. Fergusson, especially since Russ doesn't really subscribe to any religious beliefs or practices. Even though there's tension from the child abandonment case and later the discovery of the infant's murdered mother, Clare and Russ strike up an unusual friendship.

As the story evolves the friendship between Clare and Russ constantly teeters on the brink of something more. Clare is well aware of the fact that Russ is married and as a result she is the one that pulls back and pushes Russ away, figuratively and literally. As the investigation into the murder continues, Clare unwittingly uncovers a major clue. Will she be able to inform Russ before the murderer tries to silence her permanently?

Ms. Spencer-Fleming has provided a mystery and suspense novel that has undertones of romance that is converted to friendship and inspires due to Clare's faith. Religion isn't the primary theme of In The Bleak Midwinter but does feature prominently yet it isn't intrusive and simply becomes a part of Clare and her routines. Clare and Russ are characters that are well-developed and wholly realistic. It is quite easy to imagine the winter chills, ice and snow described by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I look forward to reading this new-to-me series to see what new adventures await Clare and Russ as this series is re-released.