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To Darkness and to Death

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Millicent van der Hoeven has decided to sell her family's Adirondack estate to a nature conservancy. But on the day of the land transfer, her brother frantically calls the police. Millie has disappeared in the cold November forest…   Reverend Clare Fergusson gets an early morning phone call to join the Millers Kill search and rescue operation. As a former Army helicopter pil Millicent van der Hoeven has decided to sell her family's Adirondack estate to a nature conservancy. But on the day of the land transfer, her brother frantically calls the police. Millie has disappeared in the cold November forest…   Reverend Clare Fergusson gets an early morning phone call to join the Millers Kill search and rescue operation. As a former Army helicopter pilot trained in survival skills, she can't refuse the request—even though it's the day of the bishop's annual visit. Worse for Clare, the search operation will link her up with Russ Van Alstyne, the very married local police chief who is her greatest temptation. Now, as Clare and Russ race time to find Millie van der Hoeven, they soon discover the secrets of someone who is desperate to stop the sale...and a deadly madness waiting to destroy them all.   To Darkness and to Death is a stunning mystery from award-winning author Julia Spencer-Fleming.


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Millicent van der Hoeven has decided to sell her family's Adirondack estate to a nature conservancy. But on the day of the land transfer, her brother frantically calls the police. Millie has disappeared in the cold November forest…   Reverend Clare Fergusson gets an early morning phone call to join the Millers Kill search and rescue operation. As a former Army helicopter pil Millicent van der Hoeven has decided to sell her family's Adirondack estate to a nature conservancy. But on the day of the land transfer, her brother frantically calls the police. Millie has disappeared in the cold November forest…   Reverend Clare Fergusson gets an early morning phone call to join the Millers Kill search and rescue operation. As a former Army helicopter pilot trained in survival skills, she can't refuse the request—even though it's the day of the bishop's annual visit. Worse for Clare, the search operation will link her up with Russ Van Alstyne, the very married local police chief who is her greatest temptation. Now, as Clare and Russ race time to find Millie van der Hoeven, they soon discover the secrets of someone who is desperate to stop the sale...and a deadly madness waiting to destroy them all.   To Darkness and to Death is a stunning mystery from award-winning author Julia Spencer-Fleming.

30 review for To Darkness and to Death

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    Russ: I love you, but we can't do anything about it. I'm married, and you're a priest. Clare: I know. All we can do is make eyes at each other when we think nobody is looking. It's exciting and frustrating at the same time. But wait! Here we are alone in my living room! Maybe . . . . Russ: Maybe . . . but no! I can't! Clare: Whoops! Sorry! Russ: I still love you, Clare. Clare: I love you, too. Russ: OK then. Let's enjoy the limited contact we have while we have it. Clare: [This relationship is doomed.: Russ: I love you, but we can't do anything about it. I'm married, and you're a priest. Clare: I know. All we can do is make eyes at each other when we think nobody is looking. It's exciting and frustrating at the same time. But wait! Here we are alone in my living room! Maybe . . . . Russ: Maybe . . . but no! I can't! Clare: Whoops! Sorry! Russ: I still love you, Clare. Clare: I love you, too. Russ: OK then. Let's enjoy the limited contact we have while we have it. Clare: [This relationship is doomed.:] All this in the midst of four other sub-plots that come shooting at you in small clips instead of long chapters. This is the kind of TV-screenwriting style that I really hate, so it took me a while to warm up to this book. In the end, however, the premise worked great: a large tract of wooded land is being sold, and the sale affects the lives and livelihoods of four families. Not to mention our star-crossed lovers. Exciting cliff-hangers throughout.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    Let’s face it, those of us who are still reading this series at volume four are probably reading it more for the Claire/Russ relationship dynamics than for the mysteries. Not that the mysteries are bad, they just aren’t really the main point of this series to my way of thinking. In fact, there are a couple of turns in this particular book that I didn’t find realistic. The villains are just too impulsive, one beating a young woman almost to death, then running in a panic and the other accidentally Let’s face it, those of us who are still reading this series at volume four are probably reading it more for the Claire/Russ relationship dynamics than for the mysteries. Not that the mysteries are bad, they just aren’t really the main point of this series to my way of thinking. In fact, there are a couple of turns in this particular book that I didn’t find realistic. The villains are just too impulsive, one beating a young woman almost to death, then running in a panic and the other accidentally killing a man, then trying to bend events to benefit himself. The first situation is the most believable of the two--I can see that happening to someone with poor impulse control, which fits the author’s characterisation of him. I’d like to think that people are less cold blooded than the accidental killer, but perhaps I’m a hopeless optimist. However, if one is going to accept those actions as possible, the way the author linked them together was well done. I’m definitely going to be reading the next book, because Claire and Russ either have to do something about their attraction or quit tormenting each other. Russ seems to have some idea of what he’s going to do by this book’s end, and Claire has found someone to talk to about the situation, so I’m sure that things are going to shift in the next volume. However, I have reading goals to meet before the end of 2019, so I’m not sure when I will get back to this series. Rest assured that I’ll be back to check on the situation in Miller’s Kill as soon as I can.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    To Darkness and to Death starts out with a bang and more potential than the first three I've read in this series. Somewhere, though, the mystery and plot get bogged down and I found myself just wanting it all to wrap up and get on with it. Spoiler Alert Though not truly a spoiler I don't want these comments to ruin the story for anyone. One of the things I've always liked about this series is the romantic tension between the two main characters, the Rev and the Sheriff. It's definitely still here To Darkness and to Death starts out with a bang and more potential than the first three I've read in this series. Somewhere, though, the mystery and plot get bogged down and I found myself just wanting it all to wrap up and get on with it. Spoiler Alert Though not truly a spoiler I don't want these comments to ruin the story for anyone. One of the things I've always liked about this series is the romantic tension between the two main characters, the Rev and the Sheriff. It's definitely still here but seems off, a bit immature and wrong. I actually was getting annoyed with the whole thing. The two trade nothing more than a few kisses and declaration of love but an affair nonetheless. After much back and forth, Russ states he intends to tell his wife that he loves Clare. Clare asks "What do you think her reaction is going to be?" Russ answers "Damned if I know. Somewhere between shooting me, and giving me her blessing, I think." My eyebrow raises a bit at this. I'm still committed to read the rest of the series. I hope the next offers me more.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    I'm almost ashamed to admit that there were large sections of this book that I found deeply amusing. The villains did so much scrambling to try to cover up their sins that had that scrambling not resulted in death and battery, it really would have been the stuff of slapstick. I had some trouble with the idea that it all took place over a period of one very long day, just because there was so much activity crammed into it (not even a full 24 hours, even), but when I stopped looking at the timesta I'm almost ashamed to admit that there were large sections of this book that I found deeply amusing. The villains did so much scrambling to try to cover up their sins that had that scrambling not resulted in death and battery, it really would have been the stuff of slapstick. I had some trouble with the idea that it all took place over a period of one very long day, just because there was so much activity crammed into it (not even a full 24 hours, even), but when I stopped looking at the timestamps and just let it ride, I enjoyed myself much more. One of the things I like about this series is that it's fairly well balanced between conservative and liberal viewpoints. Both the environmentalists buying the property to return it to its "natural" state (Ed Castle makes the point that it's been cultivated for over three hundred years, back to the Iroquois, so what exactly do they mean by "natural"?) and the people whose livelihoods are being affected by that sale have their sympathetic points, something highlighted further by having the latter be split into two groups, one of whom is less sympathetic than the other. I'm not sure if I was meant to feel sorry for Shaun Reid, desperate to save his business simply because it's been in his family forever and he wants his son to take over (said son having no interest in doing so), but I didn't really, which worked out great since he ended up being a villain, sort of. I liked the complexity of the plot and the introduction of one of Clare's superiors--her officiating at the homosexual commitment ceremony comes back to bite her, and I thought that was extremely effective. The best funny/awful scene, though, has to be the banquet/dance at the climax, in which Clare and her date have to share a table with Russ and his wife, and great awkwardness ensues. I don't think I've ever felt more sorrow and sympathy for Russ and Clare than I did at that point, and I especially loved that the incident provided a way for Clare to finally find someone to talk to about this awful mess she's ended up in. Spoilers, now: (view spoiler)[The depiction of Russ and Linda's marriage is well-done, I think; they've been married twenty-five years, and no marriage is the same at that point as it was when you're newlyweds, but the signs are all there that Russ and Linda are still together mainly out of inertia and the affection that two people who've shared so much have. But Russ believing that Linda will accept the news that her husband has fallen in love with another woman and not eviscerate him by destroying that new love is...naïve, I think. And I don't think anyone's considered the hit Clare's reputation is going to take--there's no way anyone will see her as anything but a homewrecker, and the fact that she's a priest just makes that worse. Even so, I believe in Russ and Clare's love, I believe that it's not a passing infatuation, and I want so badly for them to be together that it's hard to remember that Spencer-Fleming is a horrible sadist who will no doubt continue to torture her characters no matter what Russ tells his wife. (hide spoiler)] It's interesting, the few glimpses we get of Russ's subordinates and their perspective--they know their boss's interest in the priest is more than just friendly, but they keep quiet about what they observe, aside from the occasional snark about how their boss seems to be getting religion. I wonder where they're going to come down when the truth eventually comes out. And that goes double for Clare's parishioners. I hate that I have to wait for the next book; I'm ready to read it now.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike Finn

    This book is dominated by a complex plot, pivoting around the independent but interlocking actions of three men, each of whom uses violence, mostly against women, to defend things that they see as central to their sense of self. It also pushes the relationship between the Priest and the Sherrif beyond any pretence of being platonic. If this hadn't been the fourth book in the series, I might have set it aside after the first chapter. It opens with a woman awakening alone and finding herself bound a This book is dominated by a complex plot, pivoting around the independent but interlocking actions of three men, each of whom uses violence, mostly against women, to defend things that they see as central to their sense of self. It also pushes the relationship between the Priest and the Sherrif beyond any pretence of being platonic. If this hadn't been the fourth book in the series, I might have set it aside after the first chapter. It opens with a woman awakening alone and finding herself bound and with no knowledge of where she is or how she got there. It was scenes like that that led to me abandoning "Criminal Minds". It's too close to turning horror into either banality or voyeurism. The book righted itself quickly, coming back to characters and a writing style that I recognised but it left me wondering if this was going to be another book looking at the bad things that men do to women in a way that revels a little too much in the power the violence gives to the men. I should have had more faith in Julia Spencer-Fleming. She delivered a book which is about men who commit acts of violence against women and sometimes men, but the focus isn't on the violence but on the process by which these men convince themselves that what they are doing is, if not right, then necessary, especially if they can get away with it. I found myself being impressed by the way each of the men, with different perceived threats, different hopes and different social situations trod, independently, the same path to violence, or, as the title has it, to darkness and to death. The plot that interlocks the stories of these three men is intricate. The linkages are complex and clever, The reveals kept me guessing and cranked up the tension with the actions of each man amplifying the damage done by the others. In the midst of all of this, we have Claire and Russ, the Priest and the Sheriff, bringing humanity to the story and preventing it from degrading into a clever but mechanical thriller. Seeing people through Claire's eyes or Russ' eyes makes them more real. It allows us to see them as more than plot devices. The book also moves forward the story arc of the unlooked-for but inescapable attraction between Claire and the very married Russ. I thought this part of the story was very well done. Clichés and moral judgements were both avoided. Instead, we were shown too fundamentally good people who want something that they can't have without becoming different people than the ones they want to be. It seems clear that Claire and Russ have reached a point where they will have to make a decision. I think it shows how well this was written that I found myself unable to say what should happen next and was only certain that they can't stay as they are. I'll be back for book five and hoping that Claire and Russ find a path and that the next plot is a little less violent.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This could have been a good book. I was expecting to enjoy a fun, relatively uncomplicated mystery. What I got was a domestic abuse soap opera. The moral of the story appears to be "under enough pressure, any nice man can be pushed to beat, kidnap, or kill a woman." The first time the author presented a man beating a woman almost to death as an "accident," an "understandable mistake," it was disgusting and disturbing. The second time, when another "nice, normal" man kidnapped another woman, agai This could have been a good book. I was expecting to enjoy a fun, relatively uncomplicated mystery. What I got was a domestic abuse soap opera. The moral of the story appears to be "under enough pressure, any nice man can be pushed to beat, kidnap, or kill a woman." The first time the author presented a man beating a woman almost to death as an "accident," an "understandable mistake," it was disgusting and disturbing. The second time, when another "nice, normal" man kidnapped another woman, again an "understandable accident," it was getting old. And then the third time? The fourth? Sick. Similarly, presenting the narrative of the abusive, violent men ON THE SAME LEVEL as the narrative of the victims put them as equally valid. She would talk about the horrible pain experienced by the victim, and next paragraph be going on, and on, and ON about how scared THE ABUSER WAS FEELING. It was extremely obvious, and extremely disturbing. The disgusting, despicable, CONTINUAL presentation of the actions of violent and abusive men as sympathetic and understandable "accidents" ruined the book. Also, the unending, unexplainable, unsustainable drama of Claire and Russ, STILL not having sex but continuing to want to, just needs to stop.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Hallie

    That's a three for the story overall, which I liked a lot less than the earlier books in the series, but it's a three with bonus points galore for the author's timing wrt the Clare-and-Russ story arc. If you haven't read up to this point in the series, you'll be safe with the following paragraph, and I'll pinpoint where there'll be a degree of spoiling for the slow relationship development but nothing more than what you'd get from the blurb. Proper spoilers will be hidden. The reason I didn't lik That's a three for the story overall, which I liked a lot less than the earlier books in the series, but it's a three with bonus points galore for the author's timing wrt the Clare-and-Russ story arc. If you haven't read up to this point in the series, you'll be safe with the following paragraph, and I'll pinpoint where there'll be a degree of spoiling for the slow relationship development but nothing more than what you'd get from the blurb. Proper spoilers will be hidden. The reason I didn't like this one so much is that it takes place over the course of just one (very, very) long day. As a result, there are multiple POV sections, rather than just switching between Russ and Clare's, with the odd lacing of another perspective, in the prologue, for example. I wouldn't have minded this except for the people themselves, who go from fine or not-totally-loveable, to a totally nasty shower of -- well, they're nasty. Unfortunately it's easy enough to feel sorry for them while simultaneously hating what they do and how they respond to their own actions, and that's just depressing. On to Russ & Clare, with my middle-level warning! Linda hasn't miraculously absconded, leaving proof of her criminal activities and extra-marital affairs or anything so cheerful, so you know there's still woe aplenty for our favourite non-couple couple. I have some serious reservations about how things were said, but while still holding that the author is an evil genius manipulator, I greatly admire her sense of when to call time on what's going on, rather than letting the relationship drag on unchanged for too many books. Before taking myself off behind spoiler-veil, I'm going to put up this one wonderful quote, which just killed me. (I actually lifted it from Katie's review, as she had quoted it as well!) Her shoulder sagged. “I don’t know what I want. Absolution, I guess. For someone to tell me that I can sustain this tightrope act with you without hopelessly compromising my standards. For someone to confirm that what I feel for you isn’t wrong, that it’s a gift from God.” “Some gift.” They rounded the corner and saw the Washington County Hospital sign glowing white and blue in the darkness. “ ‘Here, here’s your soul mate, the person who completes you. Whoops, did I mention you can’t actually be together? Have a nice day.’ ” He glanced down at her. She was looking ahead, a complicated smile on her face. “That’s the nature of His gifts. He wants to see what you do with them.” “Thanks, but I’ll stick to stuff from stores that take a return with receipt. Poor, poor Russ. Poor both of them, but unlike Clare, he doesn't have any reason to believe that it is a gift, except in that tragically ironic way. And also he doesn't have anyone to whom he can talk about Clare - his difficulty with friendships is mentioned and he loses one he'd valued over the course of the day. Finally, my other quibbles, behind a cut. (view spoiler)[As I said, I think it was definitely time for Russ and/or Clare to realise they couldn't go on as was, and it made sense that Russ needed to tell Linda. But! I didn't agree with the line about Linda's really loving him and therefore not doing anything that would "eviscerate" him. Her love isn't ever shown to be much more than a rather superficial kind of thing, as evidenced by a) her complete disinterest in his job and its dangers, because oh, that might bother her a bit. Yeah, if your husband is as likely to die every day as he is in this series (which is ridiculously likely), and you love him, you worry. Not avoidable. Also by b), her "armed truce" with his mother, who might have a little of the no-woman's-good-enough-for-my-son syndrome, but -- no, not so much. And Linda's "forgetting" to tell Russ that his mother was going to the big dinner so she wouldn't have to sit at the same table with her is incredibly petty. Aaaand she's not a pet person. Case closed! (Just kidding.) Even putting my distrust of her real love for Russ aside, you'd have to be quite saintly to react in so unselfish a manner to the news that your spouse was in love with someone else as to essentially give him blessing to go off, viscera intact. It's a type of saintliness that I don't really trust when apparently showing up this kind of situation either. Aside from that concern - oh, right, I almost forgot about this, while getting all caught up in the relationship drama! I found Millie's relationship with her brother, when she knew that he'd killed his mother in the fire that scarred him, to be either beyond disturbed or just unbelievable. They were clearly meant to be a very, very dysfunctional family, but still, that was tough to take. She didn't seem to care much that he was planning to kill a mass of people, once he'd incarcerated her to keep her safe. Lisa's sister, too - Lisa I could get, going into shocked protection-mode for Randy, despite everything, but her sister had seen how brutally he'd beaten Becky, and yet called Lisa to warn her, without telling her that he deserved to be locked up for it. As I said, a lot of people behaving truly horribly. Finally, while I loved that Hugh managed to go to sympathetic friend to Clare, after he was so furiously angry and jealous, it doesn't seem a good thing to keep him in the wings longer, as a possible Russ-substitute. Not good for him, or Clare! Nope, not final at all. The scene in which Jeremy stays with Randy was deeply effective, and so, so sad. (hide spoiler)]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I am not normally a fast reader. However, I am in danger of a speeding ticket in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. The action at points gets so intense that I can't help but hit soar through the intensity to the other side. Not to say that there is ever quite a lull in the action. Im the culminating action of To Darkness and to Death, I literally felt my pulse quicken. I believe that is a clear indication of a well-written story. In this latest addition to the seri I am not normally a fast reader. However, I am in danger of a speeding ticket in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. The action at points gets so intense that I can't help but hit soar through the intensity to the other side. Not to say that there is ever quite a lull in the action. Im the culminating action of To Darkness and to Death, I literally felt my pulse quicken. I believe that is a clear indication of a well-written story. In this latest addition to the series, Clare and Russ find themselves caught up in the drama surrounding the sale of the 250,00 acre Great Camp. The land from which local loggers and a local pulp mill depend on the lumber from it is being sold to an organization that plans to preserve its natural state and disallow any additional harvesting. The day of the signing by the land owners, one of the owners, a young woman, goes missing on the land. Thus begins a snowballing effect of conflicting interests and fights for survival. It is an important time in Clare's ministry, too, as her Bishop is due to visit, and she must ensure all is at the ready for him. Clare and Russ are still trying to deal with their feelings for one another, and, with another suitor waiting in the wings for Clare, some decisions will have to be made. So, jump in, buckle your seatbelt, and enjoy yet another great ride in this sensational series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This book is the first book I have read in the series and it has nothing to recommend itself. Many of the characters start out as normal people and then suddenly they are killing people for flimsy reasons. I can see this happening once, but multiple times? There is not one person with any kind of moral base including the "heroes" who are a church priest and police chief. Also there isn't even a mystery. This book is almost unreadable. This book is the first book I have read in the series and it has nothing to recommend itself. Many of the characters start out as normal people and then suddenly they are killing people for flimsy reasons. I can see this happening once, but multiple times? There is not one person with any kind of moral base including the "heroes" who are a church priest and police chief. Also there isn't even a mystery. This book is almost unreadable.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I was in such a hurry to read this one after #3 in the series. The hurry had to do with Clare's and Russ's relationship and the way that #3 ended. For that reason alone, volume #4 is worth it. The rest of the story confused me for the longest time, although, I figured out two plot points before they were revealed. The problem has to do the author dividing this book into minute increments of one day which starts with a young woman disappearing. Subsequent units of the day introduce characters tha I was in such a hurry to read this one after #3 in the series. The hurry had to do with Clare's and Russ's relationship and the way that #3 ended. For that reason alone, volume #4 is worth it. The rest of the story confused me for the longest time, although, I figured out two plot points before they were revealed. The problem has to do the author dividing this book into minute increments of one day which starts with a young woman disappearing. Subsequent units of the day introduce characters that I had trouble keeping straight for a long time. Eventually, I keep people straight in my mind, but when I read something lighter, for relaxation, I don't want to work this hard to keep tract. I'm still eager to go on to #5, but first, I'll take a little break and catch up on the pile forming in the corner of my bedroom.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    I have enjoyed all of the books in this series, so far, but I found this one to be the most gripping. The overall tone of the book feels a little darker in some ways, and yet some of the plot twists seemed almost farcical. the love affair between Rev. Claire and Russ is becoming more open, too, with a startling declaration at the end of the book. . . .

  12. 5 out of 5

    Leah Belle

    Stayed up past my bedtime finishing this one! This was very similar to all the other books in this series, with lots of characters (kind of hard to keep track who was with who) and lots of murders.. but I always enjoy these as “guilty pleasure” reads and it always hooks me by the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Red

    This one was really tight and fast paced. Took place in 24 hours and it helped that I read it in about the same amount of time. Might be the best of the series so far.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    I read this out of order; I thought it was Book #2, so now I need to backtrack, duh.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    So I started off enjoying this was one less than the others. It's different. It takes place all in one day and there are so many plotlines and point of view characters that I felt like Clare and Russ were barely there--separately or together. And there's so much going on and it's just all about people making the wrong choices and ohhh. That was so hard to read. But I ended up really liking and appreciating it by the end. (view spoiler)[When Jeremy did the right thing, I mentally stood up and chee So I started off enjoying this was one less than the others. It's different. It takes place all in one day and there are so many plotlines and point of view characters that I felt like Clare and Russ were barely there--separately or together. And there's so much going on and it's just all about people making the wrong choices and ohhh. That was so hard to read. But I ended up really liking and appreciating it by the end. (view spoiler)[When Jeremy did the right thing, I mentally stood up and cheered. I'd been so jaded by that point, that I was just waiting for him to run off, too. AND THEN HE DIES. After I got over my initial reaction ("NO FAIR NO FAIR NO FAIR"), I think I like it. You're not guaranteed to be rewarded for doing the right thing. That's not the point. And, oh Clare and Russ. So sometimes in this one I just felt like . . . JUST BE TOGETHER. I'm normally not a fan of infidelity stories, but Linda just hasn't been around enough for me to feel the full weight of Russ's marriage. BUT JUST. Them both more fully realizing that this relationship isn't quite right. Clare saying she needs to talk to someone. The deacon being unexpectedly just the right person to talk to. Russ deciding to tell Linda what's been going on. I'm just overall really impressed with how this is being handled. Oh! And this: Her shoulder sagged. “I don’t know what I want. Absolution, I guess. For someone to tell me that I can sustain this tightrope act with you without hopelessly compromising my standards. For someone to confirm that what I feel for you isn’t wrong, that it’s a gift from God.” “Some gift.” They rounded the corner and saw the Washington County Hospital sign glowing white and blue in the darkness. “ ‘Here, here’s your soul mate, the person who completes you. Whoops, did I mention you can’t actually be together? Have a nice day.’ ” He glanced down at her. She was looking ahead, a complicated smile on her face. “That’s the nature of His gifts. He wants to see what you do with them.” “Thanks, but I’ll stick to stuff from stores that take a return with receipt. I think that kind of connection IS a gift, but Russ is right, too. It feels like an awful one right now. (hide spoiler)]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    This fourth book in Spencer-Fleming's series with Clare Ferguson, rector of the Episcopal Church in Millers Kill, N.Y all takes place in one day. Clare is called to help search for missing woman who is believed lost in the large estate owned by her family. Spencer-Fleming interweaves this search with several other subplots that make for exciting reading. And Clare and Russ face the reality of their mutual attraction to each other. I really like this series and Spencer-Fleming's writing. This fourth book in Spencer-Fleming's series with Clare Ferguson, rector of the Episcopal Church in Millers Kill, N.Y all takes place in one day. Clare is called to help search for missing woman who is believed lost in the large estate owned by her family. Spencer-Fleming interweaves this search with several other subplots that make for exciting reading. And Clare and Russ face the reality of their mutual attraction to each other. I really like this series and Spencer-Fleming's writing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dichotomy Girl

    This book was a mess, the mystery completely farcical, and though we are given a little bit of hope for Clare & Russ's relationship, this is quickly destroyed if you read the description of the next book. I think I'm done with this series. This book was a mess, the mystery completely farcical, and though we are given a little bit of hope for Clare & Russ's relationship, this is quickly destroyed if you read the description of the next book. I think I'm done with this series.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    I should like a mystery featuring a female (!!) Episcopal (!!) priest, right? I started this book in July and now (trying to clean up the 100 books in my living room) gave it another look, but no. No. No. No. I got to page 31. I'm not sure I've ever so unceremoniously dumped a book that few pages into it. But by page 31 I have no idea who was kidnapped, drugged, gagged, bound, and left somewhere unknown. I still have no idea why we care about Ed Castle and his wife Suzanne are, even though I know I should like a mystery featuring a female (!!) Episcopal (!!) priest, right? I started this book in July and now (trying to clean up the 100 books in my living room) gave it another look, but no. No. No. No. I got to page 31. I'm not sure I've ever so unceremoniously dumped a book that few pages into it. But by page 31 I have no idea who was kidnapped, drugged, gagged, bound, and left somewhere unknown. I still have no idea why we care about Ed Castle and his wife Suzanne are, even though I know they have a daughter named Bonnie and own a business they've put up for sale [later edit: also! a daughter named Becky? I think? Becky and Bonnie! How cute and utterly confusing for the reader, who hears about them many pages apart]. I didn't even know who Russ was until I read the back of the book again and some of the reviews, which claim that the relationship between him (the sheriff) and Clare Fergusson (the female! Episcopal! priest) is one of the delights of the series. I know Russ goes hunting with Ed Castle. Who is Gene, and who is his mother? (page 1) Then there's John Opperman (developer) and Eugene van der Hoeven and his sister Millie (maybe she's the kidnapped one?) Officers Duane (no last name) and Mark Durkee, Mike Yablonski, then Mark's wife's sister who married the loser, Randy, Mike's brother, and Mark's wife Lisa. On page 26 Shaun Reid and his wife Courtney are introduced and by then, I really don't give a flying fig. And Terry McKellan (page 27) and then we start in from Becky's perspective and . . . AAAAAAAAGGHHHHHHHHH! I do know who John Huggins is (Millers Kill Search and Rescue) because he identifies himself on the phone. Seriously, that's by page 31. And do I care enough to go back pages to remember who is who, by page 31? Nope. Not at all. This is not the first in the series, to be fair to the author; however, it makes zero sense to someone who hasn't read the first three, and even if I knew the characters from the first 3 I'd be confused by now. Terrible. Just terrible. I only spared it the one-star rating because I save that for books that simply should not have been published. This book might appeal to hard-core fans of The Rev. Clare Fergusson -- but even those readers seem to be a little tired of the dynamics between her and the sheriff (who is nuts about his stunning, sexy wife, but apparently he and the fine Rev. have a lot of sexual tension -- which sounds about as unappealing as anything else about this book). I'll have to ask my friend who has this as "to-read" to let me know if it has any redeeming virtues form pages 32-308, but I'm not willing to read those extra 277 pages at this point.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Does the proposed sale of a 25,000-acre Great Camp have anything to do with Millicent van der Hoeven’s disappearance? What will the sale of the property mean to the town’s last lumber mill when the nature conservancy planning to purchase the land refuses to allow any further tree harvesting? Millicent’s disappearance . . . on the day she is to sign the paperwork for the sale . . . creates a chain reaction that, over the course of a single day, reveals long-held secrets and exposes the power of gr Does the proposed sale of a 25,000-acre Great Camp have anything to do with Millicent van der Hoeven’s disappearance? What will the sale of the property mean to the town’s last lumber mill when the nature conservancy planning to purchase the land refuses to allow any further tree harvesting? Millicent’s disappearance . . . on the day she is to sign the paperwork for the sale . . . creates a chain reaction that, over the course of a single day, reveals long-held secrets and exposes the power of greed. What is the future for the town? For the Great Camp? And will Millicent be found before something even more tragic occurs? This story, the fourth in the series, has a surfeit of characters, many of whom are unlikable, unsympathetic, and selfish. It’s complex, flawed, and dark. Just like real life. As a counterpoint, there’s compassion, bravery, and hope. Just like real life. Human frailties abound; the intriguing plot brings the chaos of desperation to the fore as the poignant relationship between Clare and Russ races toward some sort of revelation or decision or?? As always, the major plot points are resolved, but there remain a few loose ends left to serve as an enticement for readers to pick up the next book in the series. Although each story is a stand-alone, reading the books in sequence keeps events in the proper perspective for readers and helps them understand and fully appreciate the town, its people, and the developing relationship between Clare and Russ. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bett

    The format of this entry in the Rev. Clare series makes it unique among the four that I've read so far: it takes place in less than 24 hours, and is organized first by the offices of prayer in a Christian religious community (beginning with Morning Prayer at 5:00am and ending with Compline at 2:00am) and then by time, jumping as little as five minutes between elements from different characters' points of view. I'm very far from a Christian but I happen to absolutely love the choral music associa The format of this entry in the Rev. Clare series makes it unique among the four that I've read so far: it takes place in less than 24 hours, and is organized first by the offices of prayer in a Christian religious community (beginning with Morning Prayer at 5:00am and ending with Compline at 2:00am) and then by time, jumping as little as five minutes between elements from different characters' points of view. I'm very far from a Christian but I happen to absolutely love the choral music associated with these prayer services, so I'm going to give anything with "Compline" in it a chance. That said, I found it a little distracting to have the voices of so many characters telling the story, and I missed hearing Rev. Clare much of the time. The crimes to be solved are dramatic; the autumnal setting is appealing to this New Englander; and Clare's tentative (and yet intense in its own unique way) relationship with Police Chief van Alstyne takes another step... whether forward or backward is yet to be determined! I've already ordered #5 from the library.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karma♥Bites ^.~

    RE-READ (audio) 31 Jan 2020 (★★★½) TL;DR: Millers Kill & its environs hit significant pothole in road of life = gears slip in some residents & they gradually lose their shite in different yet intertwined ways = unfortunate consequences & outcomes, whether intended, foreseeable or otherwise. As w/ #3, rating mostly for mystery (still not on board w/ rom subplot). Now firmly into series re-read/catch-up, remembering more & more of certain IMs w/ buddy during initial reads. If not for certain HD fail RE-READ (audio) 31 Jan 2020 (★★★½) TL;DR: Millers Kill & its environs hit significant pothole in road of life = gears slip in some residents & they gradually lose their shite in different yet intertwined ways = unfortunate consequences & outcomes, whether intended, foreseeable or otherwise. As w/ #3, rating mostly for mystery (still not on board w/ rom subplot). Now firmly into series re-read/catch-up, remembering more & more of certain IMs w/ buddy during initial reads. If not for certain HD failure, could c&p some bits here :( Anyhoo, already half-way thru #5 ALL MORTAL FLESH & Super Bowl LIV fest officially started, so quick notes for now... Format for TO DARKNESS AND TO DEATH reminded me of TV show ‘24’ (ya know, w/ Kiefer Sutherland? No? ... *crickets*). In beginning, timestamps (in lieu of chapter headings) & multi POVs were somewhat confusing via audio, so gave up keeping track of timeline & simply listened. Altho certain events teetered on slapstick, more had flavour of Pulp Fiction-like dark humour so that 50% of time, I simply shook my head. A mental health pro would have field day w/ certain characters here—stress test, final straw, last critical drop... by whatever term, some reach their tipping point to calamitous &/or ruinous effect. Lastly, ending = alternating betn hard eyerolls & disgruntled mutterings. TSTL for several reasons, IMO :/ [timeline = 8mos after #3 (YR2/Nov). Social issue = logging/de-forestation & small-time vs. corporate.conglomorate.]

  22. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I mostly just want to copy & paste Katie's review but I will try to add some semblance of my own thoughts. Starting this I knew it was different because of the all-in-one-day set up and I think that definitely worked to my advantage. I knew what to expect and so when I really got pulled in to what was happening, I was happily surprised. The downside to that was that there's very little relief to be found. I just found myself not wanting to be in the heads a lot of these people and swapping from I mostly just want to copy & paste Katie's review but I will try to add some semblance of my own thoughts. Starting this I knew it was different because of the all-in-one-day set up and I think that definitely worked to my advantage. I knew what to expect and so when I really got pulled in to what was happening, I was happily surprised. The downside to that was that there's very little relief to be found. I just found myself not wanting to be in the heads a lot of these people and swapping from one horror to another was a lot. Also, there's SO much happening in one day that at points it becomes unbelievable. All that said, the continuation of plots from the rest of the series was handled nicely - they're nothing big but the little nods to storylines from before makes this community feel very lived in. Also, everything with Russ and Clare. I don't think I can ever remember being into a plot where (near) cheating is involved, but I just really appreciate how the tight rope is being walked.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael McCue

    Julia Spenser-Fleming has created a mystery series about a young woman Priest/Detective who lives in a small town in the Adirondaks of New York. I like mysteries with a clergy person crime solver but Clare Ferguson of St. Alban's Church in Miller's Kill NY is not my favorite. She has much going for her as a character including being a former army helicopter pilot. Her relationship with the police chief, a married man, is a distraction to some otherwise good stories. I do like the setting of this Julia Spenser-Fleming has created a mystery series about a young woman Priest/Detective who lives in a small town in the Adirondaks of New York. I like mysteries with a clergy person crime solver but Clare Ferguson of St. Alban's Church in Miller's Kill NY is not my favorite. She has much going for her as a character including being a former army helicopter pilot. Her relationship with the police chief, a married man, is a distraction to some otherwise good stories. I do like the setting of this fictional town. It is in the far north of New York not far from Saratoga and Lake George. While she solves mysteries, upsets Church members with her unconventional hobby she encounters men who are interested in her but she is too infactuated with the married police chief to develop a relationship with someone who could actually be with her. Not my favorite clergy/detective but fun to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Glenna Pritchett

    All the events in this story take place in a single day, and there is all kinds of intrigue going on. I had to make notes at first to keep track of how everyone was connected to everyone else. It definitely has the "six degrees of separation" thing going on! The ending was surprising, and I am eager to get my hands on book 5 to see where it goes from there. The series gets better with each book! All the events in this story take place in a single day, and there is all kinds of intrigue going on. I had to make notes at first to keep track of how everyone was connected to everyone else. It definitely has the "six degrees of separation" thing going on! The ending was surprising, and I am eager to get my hands on book 5 to see where it goes from there. The series gets better with each book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Never binged a whole mystery series the way I’m doing this one. Each book tackles a social issue and carries forward the delicious relationship between the two protagonists. Love the voices in the head of Clare Ferguson, her grandmother and her drill sergeant, both of whom have good advice for any moral or tactical dilemma

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    There was a lot going on in a short amount of time and several people to keep track of.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This series is exciting! This book takes place during one (not quite) 24 hour period and yet it packs a year long punch. Cannot wait to read more!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Hargett

    I could not put this one down! Definitely my favorite in the series, so far!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe Slavinsky

    Wow! There was so much going on in this book, I was almost overwhelmed. The plot was rather convoluted. Clare, & Russ' relationship further develops, amidst death, and destruction. It got pretty emotional. Looking forward to the latest developments, in the next volume, already. Wow! There was so much going on in this book, I was almost overwhelmed. The plot was rather convoluted. Clare, & Russ' relationship further develops, amidst death, and destruction. It got pretty emotional. Looking forward to the latest developments, in the next volume, already.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Candy Wood

    Wow. While the events of the third book of this series spanned generations and the narrative shifted between past and present, this fourth book involves just one extremely busy day, through the perspectives of many characters besides Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne (whose birthday it happens to be). Linda Van Alstyne and Clare finally meet, and Linda is more developed than in the previous books, though she still doesn’t focalize. Current issues underlie much of the (sometimes intense) actio Wow. While the events of the third book of this series spanned generations and the narrative shifted between past and present, this fourth book involves just one extremely busy day, through the perspectives of many characters besides Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne (whose birthday it happens to be). Linda Van Alstyne and Clare finally meet, and Linda is more developed than in the previous books, though she still doesn’t focalize. Current issues underlie much of the (sometimes intense) action, especially the conflict between environmental preservation and the economic struggles of a region dependent on a natural resource: logging and paper manufacturing are key industries in Millers Kill, New York, and are threatened by the spread of environmental tourism. Julia Spencer-Fleming shows the arguments on several sides without suggesting that anyone has all the answers. It’s getting harder to resist the urge to read the next book Right Now.

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