Clare Ferguson isn’t exactly your typical Episcopalian priest. That isn’t to say that she doesn’t have a calling to do God’s work but that she seems to do things and be places that aren’t exactly where you would expect a priest. For example, Clare is in the National Guard but not in the chaplain corp but as a pilot. She also seems to be around when the police are investing things like murders and illegal aliens which drives the police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, nuts; not that just being around Clare doesn’t drive him nuts too.
Russ is attracted to Clare. He doesn’t want to be for several reasons. A couple of the top reasons are he’s 14 years older than her, almost old enough to be her father and Clare killed his wife. Clare was cleared of any charges but Russ had been attracted to Clare before this but would not act on it as he was marred. Now that he’s not married, he still feels guilty.
In the normal course of events, Clare and Russ would not be interacting much. But Clare helping out a Catholic nun transporting migrant workers and a accident involving the van doing the transporting force them into working together, at least for a while. After the accident several of the workers run off and make their way to the farm they were to work on which happens to be Russ’s sister’s farm. Clare wanting to make sure they were okay was on the farm when a dead body is found by one of the workers. The police are called and over the next few weeks two more bodies are found. All are Hispanic males and the rumor of a serial killer is started.
Hadley Knox has left California to move in with her grandfather while she figures out what she is going to do after a divorce. She has two young children and will need to find a job that pays well and has benefits. The only job she can find is with the police department and she only gets that due to 3 years with the prison system in CA. To keep her job, she needs to attend a Police Basic course. She’s not only the only female on the force but the first one ever hired! This doesn’t seem to be a problem except one of the other officer’s is interested in being more than a co-worker.
The characters in this book are wonderful. They are full of life and live life to its fullest. When Clare sees her wrecked car she says to herself that if she doesn’t stop wrecking cars people are going to start calling her Stephanie Plum, a fictional female bounty hunter known for going through cars. Russ has a moment of guilt when he realizes that he hasn’t thought of his deceased wife for the past 4 hours. Even Hadley is seen as a proud struggling mom when she states she doesn’t want or need anyone’s charity to Clare who offers church money for her children’s summer day camp. These characters are real and have real life problems and issues making them interesting to read about.
Because all the murder victims are Hispanic, small town prejudices come out. Clare’s church had joined with the local Catholic church to help the migrant community with things like transportation. At a rectory meeting, the members are very much against continuing to help those people. Stereotypes are given though many in the community use migrant workers on their farms. It seems as though if you are Hispanic you are involved with something illegal. Clare has a fight on her hands to continue to minister to this community.
The mystery aspect of this novel is great. Who are these dead Hispanic men? Where did they come from and who is killing them? When the rectory is trashed, was the young Hispanic man that Clare had staying with her responsible or was he a victim? And what is $10,000 and a gun doing in the cleaning closet of the church and how did it get there? Even after the mystery is solved, with a war going on what is Clare going to do when she gets called up? After getting shot at Hadley is wondering if police work is really for her? Even Russ has to start looking at his relationship with his wife, even though she’s dead.
Because there is a book prior to this one, some things are lost. Clare killed Russ’s wife in some kind of shoot out but exactly what happened is not clear. Russ and Clare had some type of relationship prior to Russ’s wife’s death but again it’s not clear what kind. While questions like this are there, it still doesn’t not distract from this book in a major way.
Millers Kill reaches the boiling point in this white-hot novel of love and suspense
People die. Marriages fail. In the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, New York, however, life doesn’t stop for heartbreak. A brand-new officer in the police department, a breaking-and-entering, and trouble within his own family keep Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne busy enough to ignore the pain of losing his wife---and the woman he loves.
At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, the Reverend Clare Fergusson is trying to keep her vestry, her bishop, and her National Guard superiors happy---all the while denying her own wounded soul.
When a Mexican farmhand stumbles over a Latino man killed with a single shot to the back of his head, Clare is sucked into the investigation through her involvement in the migrant community. The discovery of two more bodies executed in the same way ignites fears that a serial killer is loose in the close-knit community. While the sorrowful spring turns into a scorching summer, Russ is plagued by media hysteria, conflict within his department, and a series of baffling assaults.
As the violence strikes closer and closer to home, an untried officer is tested, a wary migrant worker is tempted, and two would-be lovers who thought they had lost everything must find a way to trust each other again---before it becomes forever, fatally, too late.
Julia Spencer-Fleming shows you can escape danger---but not desire---in her most suspenseful, passionate novel yet.
Bestselling author Julia Spencer-Fleming is the winner of the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Dilys, Barry, Nero Wolfe, and Gumshoe Awards, and an Edgar and Romantic Times RC Award finalist. She was born at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, spending most of her childhood on the move as an army brat. She studied acting and history at Ithaca College, and received her J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law. She lives in a 190-year-old farmhouse outside of Portland, Maine, with three children, two dogs, and one husband.