‘Through The Evil Days’ – The Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries #8 by Julia Spencer-Fleming

I’ve been reading my way through this series for two and a half years now. I knew, as soon as I started ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ that I’d found a series I could lose myself in. I’ve just finished the eighth book, ‘Through The Evil Days’ and I’ve never been disappointed. These books are more than a comfort read, each of them has given me something to think about while still spinning a tense narrative and getting me hopelessly entangled in the lives and hopes of the main characters. My only regret is that there seems to be only one book left in the series, ‘Hid From Our Eyes’ which was published in 2020. Personally, I’ll continue to read these books as long as Julia Spencer-Fleming continues to write them.

I don’t know how Julia Spencer-Fleming does it but I stepped back into this series six months after I read the last book, ‘One Was A Soldier’ and I was immediately re-invested in the lives of Clair and Russ. And what complicated lives they are. It’s December and Russ and Clare are due for a week’s honeymoon in a remote cabin on a lake in the mountains. All would be well if it wasn’t for the fact that the future of Russ’ police department is being assessed and Clare is visibly pregnant, which is an unhappy surprise for Russ, who thinks he’s too old to become a father, and a problem for Clare’s Church as the pregnancy is a public declaration that Clare and Russ had sex before they were married. As they are about to leave for the mountains, where they will be out of contact with everyone, they are called to the scene of a fatal fire that may be arson and discover that a little girl is missing.

Of course, while thrashing out their futures and the feelings about parenthood, Clare and Russ find themselves at the centre of a violent conflict where they put their lives at risk to try and save the missing girl. There’s also a well-told and emotionally charged sub-plot about the relationship between Hadley and Kevin and Hadley’s ex-husband.

The storytelling is vivid without being lurid and it remains very people-focused. This is a tense thriller with a lot of action and a couple of surprises that kept me wanting to know what would happen next. It also captures the feeling of being caught in an ice storm in the mountains very well.

And, of course, there’s the humour, which keeps the whole thing human and makes the people easier to believe in and care about. For example, when the fire chief, on seeing the Reverend Claire heavily pregnant, turns to Russ and ask ‘Can Protestant Ministers do that?’, Russ replies, ‘If they’re women they can.’

So, I’m going to read the ninth book next month and hope that a tenth is published later this year.

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