I’m trying to reduce the number of posts I have in Draft status, and it’s way way past time I should be posting this. Keishon generously ran a giveaway some time back (okay, a very long time back) for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s “I Shall Not Want”, the sixth book in Ms Spencer-Fleming’s Russ Van Alstyne and Clare Fergusson books, and I won one of the copies. And I did read it as soon as it arrived… yes, this post has been sitting in the Draft queue for quite some time.
I’ve read the very first book in this series before (“In the Bleak Midwinter”), I didn’t think I had but as I continued reading, some details sounded very familiar, and it suddenly clicked. Having said that, since I didn’t realise that until some way into the book, this book reads very well as a standalone with one caveat (more details at the end of this post). Also, note that there are probably spoilers for the previous books in this post – I haven’t read them all, so I probably don’t know what is a spoiler or not (though there is a fairly obvious one).
Ms Spencer-Fleming’s website has the tagline “Novels of Faith and Murder for Readers of Literary Suspense”, which is a fairly spot-on description for these books. Russ is the police chief for the small town of Millers Kill, while Clare is the reverend for the local Episcopal Church. There is quite a bit of history between them, and their rather conflicted relationship plays as much part in this book as the external drama relating to the migrant community and a potential serial killer.
The book starts with a bang, with the first pages featuring an action-packed scene, before flashing back to events occurring a few months previously. Not a device I normally like, but I can honestly say after a few chapters, I completely forgot my reservations and became completely engrossed in the unfolding storyline. And at the end of the book, when the first chapter flashed up again, but from a different perspective, it actually took me a couple of pages before I thought “haven’t we been here before?”. Very nicely done.
Despite the seriousness of migrant rights issues and the political undertones of this topic, I have to say this didn’t detract from the sheer readability of this book. For the romance reader, there is satisfaction as well – you have the long-running Russ and Clare relationship, and also a lighter secondary romance. Ms Spencer-Fleming sneaks in some sly humour now and again, and there was a Stephanie Plum reference towards the end that had me laughing out loud.
I liked the small-town feel to these books, and also the church angle. I’m not particularly religious myself, but I thought Clare’s faith added an extra depth to the book.
Will I read the previous books? Okay, this may be slightly weird, considering how much I enjoyed ISNW, but I don’t think I will. In this book, there are hints as to what Russ and Clare went through to get where they are now, and I don’t feel like reading about that journey. Because they’re in a such good place now, I don’t know if I want to read about how they got there, especially since I just know it was a painful journey.
And this is the caveat I mentioned at the beginning – I can see how longtime readers of this series possibly found this book even more satisfying and fulfilling than I did, because they’ve been with Clare and Russ through the low points. But for me, I don’t know if I would get that same sense of satisfaction even if I read all the previous books – I would rather just leave with the high from this one.
This was a strong B+ read for me and I will definitely get the next one in this series – it will be interesting to see what happens to Clare and Russ next!
- I popped over to Ms Spencer-Fleming’s website, and she’s posted a bonus short story, which, while written slightly differently to the books (i.e. in present tense) , nicely captures the feel of this series, IMO.
- Excerpt for ISNW is here.
- And the cover above is the UK one, which strikes me as being more old-fashioned than the US one.