When I started reading mysteries, after consuming all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books in record time, I turned to adult mysteries and was introduced to the worlds created by Agatha Christie. While she didn’t exactly write continuing series, she did write novels that had recurring protagonists, particularly the Hercule Poirot series, the Miss Marple series, and the lesser known Tommy and Tuppence series. It was always a special kind of joy to open a book and find some characters I had met and enjoyed previously.
That continued for a while, until I had read and re-read all the Christie books I could find. I then tried several other series, some with mixed success in terms of satisfaction. Three of the series writers I was particularly glad to discover were Louise Penny, Margaret Maron, and Julia Spencer-Fleming. My biggest frustration was they are both contemporary writers and I have to wait for their latest books all too often for my liking.
The longest wait I’ve experienced is the almost eight year wait between Julia Spencer-Fleming’s just released ninth novel Hid From Our Eyes and her eighth novel which was published almost eight years ago. It was a genuine treat to learn that she had finally added another novel to the series and, added bonus, I was allowed the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the book through NetGalley.
Opening this latest book was like making contact with a special friend you haven’t seen in years. You know the one. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a day, a year, or ten years, you get together and the conversation flows as if you haven’t been apart more than an hour. I found myself immediately dwelling in the world of Miller’s Kill with all the characters I had met in the past, and it was like no more than a day had passed since I last spent time with them.
Let me say here that the new book did not disappoint. I enjoyed every minute of it and highly recommend it to you if you are looking for a good mystery. More than that, if you are looking for a good series, I recommend you start with her first book in the series. The mysteries are all good, and they are enhanced as she develops the relationships between characters that help add depth and interest to the stories. If you need more encouragement, here’s my latest review.
This is the much anticipated ninth book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne and while it is a new mystery, it also is the continuing story of their relationship. The current murder is a repeat of a murder from the ‘70’s, when Russ was briefly a suspect. Both of these identified murders are almost identical to an unexplained death from the’50’s, before the area had their own police force. At that time the state police decided not to investigate, preferring to classify it as an accidental death, probably of a prostitute who had been out on the town with one of her customers.
In all three cases there is a young woman found dead in the middle of the road, dressed in a beautiful new party dress. There is no apparent cause of death and forensic science was not sufficient at the time of the first or second murders to determine what might have killed the young woman. Russ treats it as a murder, drawing parallels between this and the second case, while trying to determine cause. The former chief of police who investigated the ‘50’s murder has moved back to town and joins Russ in trying to solve this mystery.
The mystery is well plotted and moves at a good pace, with the book pulling you back into it if you put it down for any length of time. While I identified the murderer early on in the book, I did not know the motive and remained in the dark about it until almost the end of the book. I was hard to put the book down, as I found myself wanting to read “just one more chapter” on a regular basis.
As is the case in other Spencer-Fleming novels, there are strong storylines which occur between Clare and Russ as well as several other secondary characters. Russ and Clare’s relationship has continued to develop and change, and their storyline includes some of the pitfalls that have developed as a result of their marriage. There is also the bid by some of the town’s politicians to dissolve the police department and contract with the state to provide services in an attempt to save money. In addition, there is some attention given to the relationship that developed then crashed between Hadley and Flynn.
All the secondary characters are well developed as is the atmosphere of the small town of Miller’s Kill. While the murder is complete within this novel, the reader will likely miss some of the nuances of the book if they have not read the previous novels. This series is definitely one I would recommend readers to begin with the first novel and read in order.
My only objection is the very obvious cliffhangers that are part of Russ and Clare’s lives as well as Hadley and Flynn’s. While there is some indication that there is also a storyline that will continue between Russ’s mother and the former Chief of Police, it is not as obvious and not so much of a cliffhanger as a suggestion. I personally dislike this type of ending where the reader must get the next book in the series in order to know if and how things “work out”.
That said, there was a long wait between the 8th book in the series, and this one did not disappoint. I want to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an Advanced Digital Reader copy in exchange for an honest review. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery and in spite of my frustration over the cliffhangers, I will be looking forward to the next book in the series.
Now I’m off to find another book, or probably quite a few books, to read while I wait for the next one in this series to be published. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even find another series that will capture my interest as much as these have. For now, I’ll simply say Happy Reading.