Priestly Mysteries

I would never been mistaken for a devout Episcopalian or any other kind of Episcopalian. Yet this summer, I motored through eight mysteries whose chief protagonists are an upstate New York police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, and Episcopalian priest, Clare Ferguson.

Yes, the two become an item. But that does not happen officially until deep into the series. At the start, he’s married, and she’s conflicted. Unofficially, their sizzling Platonic relationship helps drive the early stories. I can’t recall whether they consummated their relationship in the fifth or sixth novel. It may be the longest tease in mystery-book romances.

While their relationship kept me reading, author Julia Spencer-Fleming’s artful recitation of Episcopal ritual and pomp was an unexpected pleasure. Her brief but full descriptions of Episcopal services and Ferguson’s inner thoughts about the sacred and profane made for unexpected pleasurable reading.

It helps that Ferguson is a former Army helicopter pilot who runs toward fires. She is a priest and an action hero. It also helps that she is at odds with the Episcopalian hierarchy above here and some of the power brokers within her church. She may be the ultimate rebel with a cause.

Spencer-Fleming’s next book is due out later this year.

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