Sunday, May 18, 2008

Review: I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming

I Shall Not Want is the sixth book in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series. In this much-anticipated book, we learn what happens after the death Russ’s wife and Clare’s reinstatement in the military at the end of All Mortal Flesh.

In you aren’t familiar with this series, it’s set in the small town of Millers [sic] Kill in up state New York where ex-military helicopter pilot and newly ordained Episcopal Priest Clare Fergusson often gets involved in the criminal cases of Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. Clare is a refreshingly unusual heroine while Russ, also ex-military, is a much more traditional hero: an admirably good and decent man who is also a very good cop. The two are antagonistic at first but soon realized they are strongly attracted to each other. Clare is reluctant to get involved with a married man for moral reasons and Russ is determined to be faithful to his wife despite recent troubles in their marriage. Trite as it sounds, the tension between Clare and Russ is the driving force between these two very likeable characters in a very well-crafted series. All of the plots are amazingly but understandably complex and compellingly unpredictable. Keeping with the theme of Clare’s vocation, each book title refers to a hymn or scripture with the related text included as a preface.

I Shall Not Want starts off with a bang that will drive you crazy until you see how it plays out. You may be tempted to skip to the end but resist the urge and enjoy the ride. The plot is excellent, as usual, and involves the deaths Latino immigrants who work on the local farms. Clare’s work with the immigrants throws her into close proximity of Russ and the tension between the two is heightened by the grief and guilt they feel over the recent accidental death of Russ’s wife. The possibility that Clare’s unit will be called up for active duty in Iraq increases the tension throughout the book.

In addition to the usual supporting characters, we meet a new police officer Hadley Knox, who returns to Millers Kill as a divorced mom. The first female officer in the Millers Kill PD struggles to adapt and has her own romantic problems that complicate her new career. I really like her and hope she sticks around!

The book has an ending that will satisfactorily resolve some issues but leave you looking forward to the next book. I can’t say more than that without giving anything away! Do plan on uninterrupted reading time because once you start this book, you won’t want to stop.

If you haven’t read the series I strongly recommend you start at the beginning so you don't miss any of these fantastic stories or the on-going character development:

1. In the Bleak Midwinter (2002. Agatha Award for Best First Novel)
2. A Fountain Filled With Blood (2003.)
3. Out of the Deep I Cry (2004. Finalist 2005 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel)
4. To Darkness and to Death (2005.)
5. All Mortal Flesh (2006. 2007 Nero Award, Finalist 2006 Agatha Award for Best Novel, Finalist 2007 Macavity Award for Best Novel, and Finalist 2007 Anthony Award for Best Mystery)
6. I Shall Not Want (2008.)

Thank you, Julia, for another wonderful book and for allowing me to review it! I hope to goodness you are busy writing the next one. ☺

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