Through the Evil Days
By Julia Spencer-Fleming
Publisher: Minotaur Books
November 5, 2013
It is winter in Miller’s Kill, New York, and newlyweds Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne are finding marriage no less complicated than the other stages of their long and complex relationship. Clare’s pregnancy is creating problems in both her personal and professional life. Russ is not at all happy with his impending fatherhood and the changes it will bring. Clare’s bishop is as unhappy as Russ with the pregnancy. Clare is five months pregnant and three months a wife, making it clear to Clare’s congregation, just in case any of them have doubts, that their priest has been engaging in sex outside the bonds of church-sanctioned marriage. Clare is left in no doubt that her job is in jeopardy. Russ is faring no better. The Millers Kill city council is considering paying the state for police protection and disbanding the town’s police department. Neither Clare nor Russ is ready to talk to the other about the job issues.
This is the situation when Clare and Russ leave town on a belated honeymoon at an isolated lakeside cabin. Just to make things more interesting, a major ice storm is headed toward New York, and the arson case Russ left for others in the department to handle in his absence has turned into a double murder with a missing child involved, a child who is a transplant patient who will die without her immunosuppressant medication.
Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn, two Miller’s Kill police officers, find it difficult to work together as partners when the sharp edges of their broken relationship make them uncomfortable with one another. And Hadley’s past with all the secrets she thought she had left in California is casting an ominous shadow over her life in Miller’s Kill.
Through the Evil Days is the eighth book in Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, and she extends her stellar record for weaving a suspenseful tale wrapped in substantive social issues (drug addiction, meth labs, long-suffering parent-troubled adult child relationship in this one) with a central pair relationship of psychological depth and romantic tension. This translates into a mystery compelling enough to appeal to readers who prefer that genre and a romance with enough chemistry and complexities to appeal to dedicated romance readers.
I admit that while I enjoy the mystery element, it is the relationship between Clare and Russ that keeps me eager for the next one. Fans who may have worried that the Clare-Russ pairing would suffer from the Maddie-David (Moonlighting) syndrome can rest assured that the tension between Clare and Russ has lost none of its intensity. Their very different reactions to Clare’s pregnancy are perfectly in character with the people they have revealed themselves to be in earlier books, and kudos to Spencer-Fleming for not dodging the thorny questions and for showing that love far from providing all the answers sometimes just makes the questions weightier.
Hadley and Kevin’s relationship, which has become more intriguing with each book, does not disappoint in this one. In fact, there’s a cliffhanger ending concerning them that left me muttering words my mother would have declared unbefitting a lady. I figure that with all they are facing plus the question of whether the baby will have problems as a result of Clare’s heavy drinking and use of prescription drugs during the first trimester, the lifestyle changes an infant will bring to two people with demanding professions, and how Russ, whose identity is so entangled with who he is as police chief, will deal with the continuing threat to his job, this series is far from finished. That assurance makes me very happy.
If you are a fan of Julia Spencer-Fleming, you’ve probably already read this book. If you are a mystery reader who has yet to discover this series, I urge you to rush to your nearest book outlet and remedy that lack immediately. She is superlative! You can start with Through the Evil Days, but I strongly recommend the full series. If you are a romance reader who never reads mysteries, this series is one that will convince you that some mysteries are written for romance readers too. I give Through the Evil Days my highest recommendation.
Are you a mystery reader? What are your favorites? How do you feel about cliffhanger endings?