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Through the Evil Days

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The eighth book in the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery series. On a frigid January night, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are called to the scene of a raging fire, that quickly becomes a double homicide and kidnapping. Which is the very last thing Russ needs... Currently he's struggling with the prospect of impending fatherhood The eighth book in the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery series. On a frigid January night, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are called to the scene of a raging fire, that quickly becomes a double homicide and kidnapping. Which is the very last thing Russ needs... Currently he's struggling with the prospect of impending fatherhood. And his new wife is not at all happy with his proposal for their long-delayed honeymoon: a week in an unelectrified ice-fishing cabin. The vestry of St. Alban's Church has called for the bishop to investigate Clare's "unpriestly" pregnancy. She has one week to find out if she will be scolded, censured, or suspended from her duties. Officer Hadley Knox is having a miserable January as well. Her on-again-off-again lover, Kevin Flynn, has seven days to weigh an offer from the Syracuse Police Department that might take him half a state away. As the days and hours tick by, Russ and Clare fight personal and professional battles they've never encountered. In the course of this one tumultuous week the lives of the Millers-Kill residents readers have come to love and cherish change forever. Readers have waited years for Through The Evil Days and Julia Spencer-Fleming delivers with the exquisite skill and craftsmanship that have made her such a success.


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The eighth book in the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery series. On a frigid January night, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are called to the scene of a raging fire, that quickly becomes a double homicide and kidnapping. Which is the very last thing Russ needs... Currently he's struggling with the prospect of impending fatherhood The eighth book in the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery series. On a frigid January night, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are called to the scene of a raging fire, that quickly becomes a double homicide and kidnapping. Which is the very last thing Russ needs... Currently he's struggling with the prospect of impending fatherhood. And his new wife is not at all happy with his proposal for their long-delayed honeymoon: a week in an unelectrified ice-fishing cabin. The vestry of St. Alban's Church has called for the bishop to investigate Clare's "unpriestly" pregnancy. She has one week to find out if she will be scolded, censured, or suspended from her duties. Officer Hadley Knox is having a miserable January as well. Her on-again-off-again lover, Kevin Flynn, has seven days to weigh an offer from the Syracuse Police Department that might take him half a state away. As the days and hours tick by, Russ and Clare fight personal and professional battles they've never encountered. In the course of this one tumultuous week the lives of the Millers-Kill residents readers have come to love and cherish change forever. Readers have waited years for Through The Evil Days and Julia Spencer-Fleming delivers with the exquisite skill and craftsmanship that have made her such a success.

30 review for Through the Evil Days

  1. 4 out of 5

    Belinda2

    Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. I loved this book! I give it a 5 out of 5 on the Goodreads rating scale. Other reviewers have discussed: • The need to read the series in order. Yes! It is a series of 8 glorious books. Read them all and in order. • The various plot lines. They are fairly intricate but also relatively easy to follow. What I want to get across here is why you will want to read these books and what you will get from them. 1. The books are very well written. You will not f Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first. I loved this book! I give it a 5 out of 5 on the Goodreads rating scale. Other reviewers have discussed: • The need to read the series in order. Yes! It is a series of 8 glorious books. Read them all and in order. • The various plot lines. They are fairly intricate but also relatively easy to follow. What I want to get across here is why you will want to read these books and what you will get from them. 1. The books are very well written. You will not find the irritating mistakes in these books that you find in others. And some of the passages deserve to be read just for the sheer beauty of the writing. 2. The characters are rich and believable. You will like them, hate them, or be puzzled by their actions – and will wait for the next book wondering how their lives are going to grow or not grow. 3. The conflicts that occur in the town of Millers Kill are the same as the ones in your town or city – but they are given immediacy and importance because they connect to the characters’ lives. Some of the ways that Julia Spencer-Fleming uses the conflicts to illuminate relationships are so insightful and painful that I find myself thinking about them years later. 4. The books usually revolve around one or more societal issues, but they aren’t preachy. The issues are integral to the story and the author doesn’t go for easy or obvious resolutions to the issues. 5. I read a lot of mysteries, most of them cozies. I am used to being able to predict the arc of the story and the happy ending. That doesn’t happen in these books. They are not predictable. The happy endings are not the clichéd happy endings that cozies often have. I usually argue a lot with myself about the resolution of the various plot lines. I even think out alternative endings that please my romance-loving heart more. But I respect the endings in this series and I am happy that as this series continues it grows and deepens. 6. Julia Spencer-Fleming has been able to move her characters on to new challenges in their lives while moving the “structures” that we look for in cozies, such as developing romances, to other characters while keeping us interested in the maturing relationships. If my reasons haven’t convinced you to read this series, just take my advice and read it anyway. The books will entertain you, enrich your life, frustrate you, and keep you wishing for the next book as soon as you finish the current book

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    In this 8th book in the 'Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries', Russ and Clare look for a kidnapped child. The series does have an arc for the main characters, but the mystery can be read as a standalone. ***** In this mystery/thriller set in upstate New York, the first part of the book is a mystery: the cops are trying to find out who kidnapped a child, Mikayla, who recently had a liver transplant and will die without her medicine. Once the suspects are identified In this 8th book in the 'Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries', Russ and Clare look for a kidnapped child. The series does have an arc for the main characters, but the mystery can be read as a standalone. ***** In this mystery/thriller set in upstate New York, the first part of the book is a mystery: the cops are trying to find out who kidnapped a child, Mikayla, who recently had a liver transplant and will die without her medicine. Once the suspects are identified, the remainder of the book is a thriller as the cops set out to rescue the girl and catch the perps during 'the ice-storm of the century.' Meanwhile, the Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ van Alstyne have now married and are about to set off for their honeymoon in a mountain cabin. Unfortunately, just as they start honeymooning the ice storm hits and Russ and Clare are coincidentally drawn into the kidnapping case. Much hardship and drama ensues heightened by the fact that Clare is pregnant and Russ isn't thrilled about it. Back home in Millers Kill, Police Officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn - who have romantic mishaps/tensions of their own - are on the case as well. During the investigation, Hadley is also coping with troubles at home since her ex-husband has shown up wanting money and threatening to take their kids if he doesn't get it. I liked the first part of the book but got somewhat bogged down in the second part. For me prolonged scenes of slogging through ice and snow and tangling with the perps seemed like writing to a formula. Readers who enjoy this type of action will probably love this book. All in all I thought the book had interesting well-drawn characters and a good plot but I found myself skimming through parts of the second half. You can follow my reviews at http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    On the one hand, I read this book quickly, with much affection for its characters. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe Julia Spencer-Fleming has become one of those writers who is so successful her editor stops editing her books. I love Clare Fergusson, she is the best, closest-to-real life fictional portrayal of a working priest I've encountered. So I suppose that's why I was disappointed to see Clare, pregnant and in the types of danger that no priest in upstate New York would ever be. On the one hand, I read this book quickly, with much affection for its characters. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe Julia Spencer-Fleming has become one of those writers who is so successful her editor stops editing her books. I love Clare Fergusson, she is the best, closest-to-real life fictional portrayal of a working priest I've encountered. So I suppose that's why I was disappointed to see Clare, pregnant and in the types of danger that no priest in upstate New York would ever be. My suspension of disbelief just snapped while reading this novel, too many graphic descriptions of grisly violence, too many instances of poor communication, too many bad choices. Oh, I'm sure I'll read the next one. But I hope there's more meat in the story, less action. More interior discussions of ethical and theological issues, fewer broken bones (and broken hearts).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    I LOVED this book. And I hated the ending. I felt the final character had more character than was exhibited at the end. But that shortcoming in no way lessened my love for the book. I can hardly wait for the NEXT Clare and Russ installment! I had some physical challanges over the summer and reading was one of the things I could do. I received an Advance Readers' Edition of the book which really hit the spot and saved my sanity! Through the Evil Days was thoroughly satisfying. Of course I am sold I LOVED this book. And I hated the ending. I felt the final character had more character than was exhibited at the end. But that shortcoming in no way lessened my love for the book. I can hardly wait for the NEXT Clare and Russ installment! I had some physical challanges over the summer and reading was one of the things I could do. I received an Advance Readers' Edition of the book which really hit the spot and saved my sanity! Through the Evil Days was thoroughly satisfying. Of course I am sold on the Fergusson-Van Alstyne duo; I am SO glad they found each other and are a family. But the addition of the two young officers--Hadley Know and Kevin Flynn--gives an added dimension to the setting. And the return of the State Police Officer, Bob Mongue, as the newest "hero" is a pleasant surprise. I loved the use of the short time-frame for the length of the tale. It is a page-turner, to be sure. I have to say, as an ex-Episcopalian (current Anglican) I LOVE the liturgical and denominational bent in all of this series. But I was a little surprised that Clare was being brought before her vestry and the representative of the Diocesan Bishop for her untimely pregnancy: "activity unbecoming a priest." There have been many concerns in the American Episcopal Church (TEC) but sex outside of marriage (which is basically what they are charging Clare with) is one of the least in the denomination. On the other hand, it is refreshing to see that some Episcopalians have conservative approaches to a rather common occurrance in the Church. I actually liked the way Clare's situation was ultimately handled and the responses of the various church officials to the matter at hand. I think it is BECAUSE I am a liturgical person (Anglican) that I appreciate Spencerr-Fleming's Clare--Reverend Clare in the book. From the very title (which is always a line from a beautiful old hymn) to the setting of small town Episcopalians in the rugged mountains of upstate New York, Through the Evil Days continues the tradition started with In the Bleak Midwinter. As many others have mentioned, read the series from the beginning to get the full flavor of this winsome duo.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    Adventurous, funny, and oh, so human. Russ and Clare, this one's for you: If thou but suffer God to guide thee, And hope in Him through all thy ways, Though storms roll in, though folks deride thee, He'll bear thee through the evil days. God lent thee wits; thy spouse's love; Thy combat skills; instincts thereof. Only be still and wait His leisure With loaded gun and heart content To take whate'er the Father's pleasure And all-discerning love hath sent: Censure; defunding; meth lords; Feds; A kidnapped girl Adventurous, funny, and oh, so human. Russ and Clare, this one's for you: If thou but suffer God to guide thee, And hope in Him through all thy ways, Though storms roll in, though folks deride thee, He'll bear thee through the evil days. God lent thee wits; thy spouse's love; Thy combat skills; instincts thereof. Only be still and wait His leisure With loaded gun and heart content To take whate'er the Father's pleasure And all-discerning love hath sent: Censure; defunding; meth lords; Feds; A kidnapped girl who needs her meds. Be nice to dogs and teenage mothers; Serve town and parish faithfully. Staties and deacons are thy brothers-- Thou yet may'st find them true to thee. And trust in God when things look bleak, E'en shouldst thou have a real bad week. (Apologies to Georg Neumark and Catherine Winkworth.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a great, and timely (read to learn the IDs of some of the villains) book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Ms. Spencer-Fleming incorporates action on every page (thank you!) while making us care about the characters. Although this series is a more romance-heavy than I prefer, it is at the top of the genre. Clare and Russ are winningly capable protagonists. Strongly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Back in March 2011, I finished One was a Soldier - the book preceding this one in the series about Clare Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne. After reading the closing line, I threw the previous book across the room yelling - "NO....you can't leave us hanging like this!" 30 plus months later, we are finally able to pick up the story.  All of us who are fans of this wonderful cast of characters have been holding our collective breath to see what's going to happen.  I really hate to give too much away so Back in March 2011, I finished One was a Soldier - the book preceding this one in the series about Clare Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne. After reading the closing line, I threw the previous book across the room yelling - "NO....you can't leave us hanging like this!" 30 plus months later, we are finally able to pick up the story.  All of us who are fans of this wonderful cast of characters have been holding our collective breath to see what's going to happen.  I really hate to give too much away so that readers who have not read the earlier books can have the fun of catching up before this one hits the bookshelves November 5th. But it does pick up just where the last one ended.  So let's catch up a bit. Clare Ferguson is an Episcopal priest and an Army Air National Guard Helicopter pilot.  After she returned from a very stressful tour in Afghanistan,  her PTSD led to drug and alcohol problems, not to mention testy scenes with the love of her life, Russ Van Alstyne.  Russ, recently widowed Vietnam era vet, is Chief of Police of Millers Kill NY, where Clare's parish is located.  After a long and tumultuous courtship, they have recently married and are determined to have the honeymoon they about were unable to have during the previous book.  Russ has found the perfect place - about an hour out of town on a quiet lake, there is a rustic cabin for sale.  It has no electricity, no plumbing, no phone line, and a big frozen pond where he is going to teach Clare the fine art of ice fishing. He wants to buy it, and this is the perfect opportunity for them to check it out to see if this could become their hideaway retreat.  Clare reluctantly agrees to check it out. After all, they're both veterans of Army survival training, so what's the big deal about no power, running water or phone? The big deal is that Clare is under pressure from her vestry to resign because of some transgressions (the cliff hangar from the last book) and Russ is facing the dismantling of his small town police force by the town council who claim the state police can provide coverage for much less money.  Neither tells the other about the impending axes about to fall.  Each figures that a week away from pressure will guide them to an answer.  Neither counts on the storm of the century isolating them so totally that the situation becomes extremely dangerous.  Neither counts on a seriously ill 7 year old being kidnapped back in Millers Kill while the police force is understaffed.  Neither counts on becoming entangled with a gang of drug dealers operating nearby. The story of Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn - members of the MK police force whose on again, off-again relationship is off at the beginning of the book- find themselves thrown back together as partners when they are assigned to lead the search team for the missing child.  This relationship has quietly developed over the last several books, and I found myself especially interested in seeing it blossom.  In fact, it is becoming as compelling as the Clare and Russ story. Spencer-Fleming is a master at blending multiple story-lines, a fairly large cast of characters and a setting untamed enough to foster all kinds of evil doings.  This one does not disappoint.  It is fast paced, taking place over a short week that to the participants must have seemed like a year.  It has new characters arriving, old friends still there (although a few are more on the fringes with this one), and a very well plotted mystery with several "Wow,  where did that come from?" plot twists. And now, in her usual white knuckle routine, Spencer-Fleming leaves us yelling at the end again.  "NO---don't leave it like this!!!"  Please Julia,  don't make us wait another 30 months.   At least we'll have time to read the whole series again.  They are definitely books that don't get old with re-reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    A young foster child is kidnapped and her foster parents are killed in a house fire. Reverend Claire Ferguson is newly married to Deputy Russ Van Alstyne, and in hot water with Episcople church hierarchy for being pregnant before she was married. The two take a delayed honeymoon and this is when it becomes apparent they are idiots. They go in January in upstate New York to a lake cabin with no phone and no cell service. Then a blizzard arrives. After all it’s January! In addition to the kidnappe A young foster child is kidnapped and her foster parents are killed in a house fire. Reverend Claire Ferguson is newly married to Deputy Russ Van Alstyne, and in hot water with Episcople church hierarchy for being pregnant before she was married. The two take a delayed honeymoon and this is when it becomes apparent they are idiots. They go in January in upstate New York to a lake cabin with no phone and no cell service. Then a blizzard arrives. After all it’s January! In addition to the kidnapper, and murdered of two people, there is a big and violent meth drug ring active in the area. Claire and Russ made stupid decision after decision. In addition their conversations made me wonder why they were married. I was further annoyed by the narration. Claire, who is from Virginia, talks like Scarlett O’Hara, an upper-class lady from a deep Georgian plantation. Russ talks like Walter Brennan, and though he’s a decade or two older than Clare, sounds like he’s on his last leg. 2.5 stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Reynolds

    Not my favorite in the generally excellent Clare Fergusson mysteries, but still an enjoyable read. The mystery in this entry focuses on a missing girl and a meth lab operation. You'd think that would lead to a roller coaster plot full of suspense. Eventually, it does take off and the action builds to a satisfying conclusion, but it takes Ms. Spencer-Fleming longer than usual to get there. The reason: a much greater focus on the personal lives of Clare & Russ and two supporting characters, Hadley Not my favorite in the generally excellent Clare Fergusson mysteries, but still an enjoyable read. The mystery in this entry focuses on a missing girl and a meth lab operation. You'd think that would lead to a roller coaster plot full of suspense. Eventually, it does take off and the action builds to a satisfying conclusion, but it takes Ms. Spencer-Fleming longer than usual to get there. The reason: a much greater focus on the personal lives of Clare & Russ and two supporting characters, Hadley and Kevin. Indeed, I would say the mystery and suspense elements of the story are more like subplots throughout the first half of the book, which concentrates on the personal drama between newly married Clare and Russ. The shift to focusing so much on character development was unexpected and definitely slowed down the action. That said, the twist in the kidnapping plot that comes near the end of the book was entertaining and definitely made for a dramatic climax. However, I wish the developments in the main characters' personal lives could have been integrated more smoothly with the mystery. I truly respect that Ms. Spencer-Fleming does not want her characters to become static, cartoon cutouts, a la Miss Marple, but the lack of balance between the two stories made this a weaker entry in a generally wonderful series. Every author is entitled to a stumble, though, so I'll certainly be coming back for the next book. After all, I can't wait to find out how the "new addition" to the team of Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne will affect their sleuthing abilities.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary Frances

    Wow, it was hard to rate this book. I love this series, love the characters, love the way the author makes the characters real. Clare, an Episcopal priest and war veteran, is so interesting and complex. Russ seems very much like men I have known, in love with a strong woman, unthreatened by her strength but struggling a lot with the energy and change she brings to his life. The others characters too have distinct and complicated personalities and lives. All good. However, I had to give this book Wow, it was hard to rate this book. I love this series, love the characters, love the way the author makes the characters real. Clare, an Episcopal priest and war veteran, is so interesting and complex. Russ seems very much like men I have known, in love with a strong woman, unthreatened by her strength but struggling a lot with the energy and change she brings to his life. The others characters too have distinct and complicated personalities and lives. All good. However, I had to give this book a 4, for writing style and characters, generous because some the events during the plot were so unbelievable. At times I felt events played out like a Saturday cliffhanger serial. It annoyed me and seemed almost silly, killing the suspense that was otherwise building nicely. One mishap, fine. Two, o.k. But too many and the whole thing begins to pass into farce. Not the best of her books, but in fairness a common flaw in her writing. She needs to dial back the artificial ways she complicates the action, and keep the plot cleaner. In the end, I figured out one major plot point midway, another not at all. But the author's sure hand with the major mystery plot and the characters is betrayed by the Coyote and Roadrunner action.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Why did I read a book revolving around a catastrophe of an ice storm when there's a snow forecast for the weekend? I guess I'll go stock up on--well, judging by this book, I guess I'll go stock up on first aid kits, emergency supplies of Oxy, heavy weaponry, wood-burning stoves, and all the hand-crank radios in the world. That should do it. This is a tense, well-constructed, complex entry in the series. Spencer-Fleming creates a set of urgent, troubling circumstances for her cast of characters--t Why did I read a book revolving around a catastrophe of an ice storm when there's a snow forecast for the weekend? I guess I'll go stock up on--well, judging by this book, I guess I'll go stock up on first aid kits, emergency supplies of Oxy, heavy weaponry, wood-burning stoves, and all the hand-crank radios in the world. That should do it. This is a tense, well-constructed, complex entry in the series. Spencer-Fleming creates a set of urgent, troubling circumstances for her cast of characters--they're all believable enough that this doesn't feel forced--and then makes it worse by adding in the ice storm of the century and the kidnapping of a little girl whose recent liver transplant means that a week without her medication could mean her death. So, no pressure, everybody. Let's see if I have them all down... Clare is married now, but her pregnancy was obviously started beforehand, and now her bishop is requesting her resignation--she can refuse to give it, but that could mean a trial by canon law, and a bad outcome there could mean she's finished in the clergy for good. The clock is ticking on her decision. Meanwhile, after books and books of hearing about Millers Kill's tight budget and the inability of the police department to get another officer hired, the town aldermen have decided that they may just want to give up the MKPD entirely and farm out the area's policing to the staties, who will cover it (though presumably less thoroughly) for a fraction of the cost. This could mean the wreck of a lot of careers in a town without many available jobs, and also the loss of Russ's income--and, again, potentially Clare's--right when the two of them are (with mixed emotions) expecting a baby. Naturally, this overlaps with their belated honeymoon to a vacation cabin up by a lake. They're going ice-fishing. In January. In upstate New York. Better them than me. Then the earnest, lovesick Kevin Flynn has an offer on the table to join the Syracuse PD. It's an escape hatch if the MKPD goes under and it's guaranteed to have more opportunities for promotion and better pay than his current position, but it means leaving behind his close-knit, loving family... and his crush on fellow offer Hadley Knox... ...whose vain, self-centered ex-husband has just turned up, threatening to take the kids back to California if Hadley doesn't either give him $20,000 or turn over the "assets" of their old production company--which means the original reels of the porn movies she starred in under her for-real birth name of Honey Potts. He wants to start distributing them digitally, but she remembers all too well the looks she started getting in California when people slowly started gossiping about her. She doesn't want a repeat of it right when she's rebuilding her life. And then, yeah, there's the kidnapped child, stolen out of the burning home of her temporary foster parents who turn out, in an interesting wrinkle, to have been former FBI, and not because of a coincidence. The investigation on her heats up at home--while everyone tries to deal with increased traffic accidents and power outages--while Clare and Russ have a less-than-peaceful exile in their cabin and soon find themselves hunted across a frozen lake while being even more directly involved with the missing girl. There are a lot of coincidences here, but Spencer-Fleming works them out well and intelligently, to the point where it actually makes sense that all of this is happening more or less at the same time. By this point in the series, Millers Kill is a fully developed small town and has a great organic messiness that adds to the believable nature of the world. I would reluctantly say that I think the wilderness survival/escape scenes here are slightly less good than they were in the first book, In the Bleak Midwinter, but that was a very high bar. Everything is still tense and well-done. Moreover, the ultimate denouement manages a stellar mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly, as situations work out both better and worse than I would have hoped. I started this one happy to be finally fully catching up with at least one ongoing series I love, and now I just want the next book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christine PNW

    Why would you do that to Kevin & Hadley? Why would you do that to Kevin & Hadley?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hallie

    I'm going to do what I've done with several of these books in the past, and start off with a few paragraphs that are safe for anyone, then switch to safe if you've read through book 7 in the series but not this (with maybe the odd spoiler line or two) and then launch into discussion with my 4 friends who've read this one already behind spoiler cut. Most of what I have to say about the series overall has been said in bits and pieces, by me and/or by my fellow addicts, but this might be a good plac I'm going to do what I've done with several of these books in the past, and start off with a few paragraphs that are safe for anyone, then switch to safe if you've read through book 7 in the series but not this (with maybe the odd spoiler line or two) and then launch into discussion with my 4 friends who've read this one already behind spoiler cut. Most of what I have to say about the series overall has been said in bits and pieces, by me and/or by my fellow addicts, but this might be a good place to pull it together, while at my first enforced stopping place in the series read. It's also nice because there's a juicy metaphor that just falls into your lap in this particular book, when it's said that the horrific storm - ice, snow, freezing rain, power lines down, communications down, you name it - is being called the storm of the century. As I was reading, deeply engrossed, a small, cranky bit of my brain was sitting back throwing popcorn at the screen and heckling: "Oh, of course this storm happened just when X, Y, and Z were going on. Oh, and of double course that had to go and compound the storm's already-disastrous effects." And the thing is that everything - personal, professional and all messy combinations thereof - in this series is always the storm of the century. Russ is never going to have an average-sized problem with crime in his small town - not unless there's one of the worst villains ever known hidden behind the nickle-and-dime crime, cooking up utter mayhem and evil. Nor is he going to have a couple of books' worth of personal problems followed by a nice spell of domestic tranquility. (Not even an Irish couple.) Clare - well, the point made about Russ applies to Clare too, and even if the reader gets a very brief lull from worrying about Russ, Clare, and/or Russ-and-Clare (it -- almost happens, very occasionally), there'll be other characters just setting out onto the black ice that underlies everything in this world. That relentlessness, quite aside from the sheer implausibility of quite so many things of such tragic or evil import happening to a few people in a small town, should make this a series I'd want nothing to do with. As, indeed, should the banner of "Forbidden Love" which hung over the series from the beginning. Initially I was hooked because the dangled carrot (that Russ and Clare would find a way to be together, to be happy, and still to be true to their moral values) was so alluring, given that the characters themselves were so beautifully developed. The relentlessness of the storms hitting them was really a part of that allure initially, and I appreciated the fact that the series moved, rather than keeping everyone stuck playing out the same game of temptation, resistance, and suffering. I felt that I loved this book despite the relentlessness, rather than because of it (even if in part), though. (I could prove totally wrong, of course, and the next book could leave me weeping inconsolably over a tragedy I never saw coming and begging for the next book.) As Melissa said, there's hope for emotional payoff from all the relationship woes we were dragged through in this book, and if it's anywhere near the emotional payoff we’ve received earlier, it'll be truly worth it. Even if we've already got most of what we're due (DUE, I say! All that readerly suffering!), the books have lots of smart humour, characters you can't help but care about, and always a lovely touch on secondary characters who surprise you again and again, through becoming much more than you'd seen in them initially. Okay, on to the part of this book that hinges on the big reveal at the end of book 7. (If you've read the blurb here for this book, you're already spoiled about it, so don’t worry about reading on.) I have realised that I have a lot of problems with this whole plot arc, right from its very early inception (or conception - sorry!) Before I try to tease it out, I do want to make clear that it's not that I would have a problem with Russ or Clare for choosing not to have children, if it had felt as if they'd actually done that. It didn't though, and that's the whole storyline I have trouble with, because it feels like clumsy authorial plot-manipulation, rather than a way these characters would actually behave. By the whole plot arc, I really mean the whole thing. I thought the very brief discussion about whether or not they’d have children was quite out of character, given what we’d seen each of them thinking before. Convenient in order to set up for the unexpected thunderbolt from above, but at the expense of feeling true to the two of them. (Clare’s line about giving too much of herself to her pastoral work to have anything left to take care of a kid especially made all kinds of red flags go up in my head, at least.) I also thought it more than a little odd that neither of them even went near to considering the possibility of contraceptive failure. (Again, convenient, but not terribly realistic.)They go ahead and start having sex, despite Clare's continued worry that parishioners will find out - indicating, strongly, that she knows this is not a totally insignificant matter to them, to the (by this point disappointingly flat) deacon appointed to keep an eye on her, to her bishop. Fair enough, the narrative says that her parish will give her a free pass before she goes off to Iraq, as they would, but the same set-up happens when she comes back from Iraq, addicted and with a serious drinking problem. At the start of this book, Clare’s obvious pre-marital sexual relationship has led to trouble - which is a bit of a no-brainer, really. But, the thing that bothered me a lot was that she “repeated” her argument that the only options for a priest were not “either married or celibate” but also “ or in a faithful, monogamous relationship if they’re not allowed to marry by the laws of their state.” That's downright Jesuitical, as well as dishonest, since she knows - better than anyone - that that clause has no relevance to her. It bothered me so much that I was reminded of a family friend of ours, who was a Roman Catholic priest involved in a bizarre game (to him) in which he won as long as he wasn’t kicked out while trying to get away with as much as he could, despite having no respect for the hierarchy at all. So - why play the game? Or in Clare’s case, why fight to remain a priest while refusing to admit that you either a) don’t respect the hierarchy or b) did something you believed to be wrong too? And then, the whole thing got messier still when Russ assumed she'd get an abortion. I could be misreading this, but in my experience, abortion is not an issue that remains totally ignorable when religious people (whatever they believe about the legality or morality of abortion in a variety of situations) and strongly non-religious people get together. His pushing her made me wonder if we're supposed to think he really doesn't get anything about her belief, or maybe doesn't care. Because abortion on the basis of inconvenience and embarrassment, for Clare? And she never even says that he can't ask her to give it 24 hours' thought? Never says that it's a moral matter for her? I really think this was a serious authorial misstep taken in order to mess with Clare and Russ so they don’t have even a moment conflict- and drama-less. Back to Clare - the appointment with the ob/gyn was "one of the most humiliating experiences" of her life. (I'm not quite so sure that the doctor would have been able to say that the amount Clare drank wouldn't cause FAS, but that's really neither here nor there. It's the effect of putting the humiliation front and central, prioritising it over her concern about the damage she may have done to the baby that bothers me.) There's less humour in this than in the other books, I thought, but I loved Clare's prayer about being more understanding of her husband, "who's being a monumental jerk". Which he is, quite often. But again - when he finally bursts out (to Bob, of all people!) that he'd just got his life exactly where he wanted it, and then Clare messed it all up - it's an uncharacteristically jerky thing for him to say. And by “uncharacteristically” I mean not even true in the context of how his life actually was at the time. I doubt if anyone would choose for their long-desired marriage to be when your spouse is addicted and suffering from PTSD. Especially when he of all people knows how desperately hard it can be to stay sober and clean. He's absolutely unstinting in his support and understanding and love of her, and anyone who has ever been with someone with a substance abuse problem will know that that can be beyond heart-breaking. Certainly beyond difficult. Yeah, all in all, not a fan of the way Clare’s pregnancy was handled! It’s a pity, because time and time again the author has managed to go down the ‘worst thing that can happen to the protagonists’ route - cause difficulty, pain and humiliation to her characters - and yet leave readers feeling that all involved have behaved in a way that allows them their own reality. Here, not so much. And finally, the totally spoilery (view spoiler)[ I’ve already commented on Melissa and Katie’s reviews about how disappointed I was when Hadley got together - for real this time, it seemed - with Kevin without telling him about having acted in porn when she was younger. I’ve been thinking since about why this disappointed me so much, and have realised it’s a few things at once. First, Hadley is an interesting character, but for me that’s not because she’s a previous victim who doesn’t trust men and never will, and doesn’t trust love or real relationships, and sure as hell never will. That is a very common type of character indeed, and while one book’s worth of that line wouldn't have been bad, it wasn't that exciting either. But someone who has that background, is extremely attractive, and who got herself a job in a prison, and then with the police (especially a police department which has never had a female officer before) in order to take care of herself and her kids? That’s not so common. I really liked her learning to deal with the job and then become good at the job, in her own fashion. Meanwhile Kevin was equally developing, from a bouncy and overeager (human red setter!) kid to someone who is still sweet and idealistic (and romantic), but also mature and respectful, as well as a very good cop. Of course Hadley’s ex/past couldn’t do other than come back to torment her (see above re the storm of the century), or we’d think we were reading a different author. But. When Hadley climbs into Kevin’s bed (equivalent) and says all the things she wants, they’re at a weird place, because they’ve done the sex-but-no-relationship thing, and Kevin’s admitted that he was wrong to push Hadley for a relationship, no matter how sweetly it was done, and Hadley has long accepted that Kevin is a wonderful guy who will be good to her if she ever does want a relationship, and they’ve been friends and partners who are really good together. By going to him for sex *with* commitment, and with Kevin - as much as he’s able to when she’s pretty much had her say and now is on to sexy times - having said that he won’t be able to take it if she ‘plays’ him again - I think she either made a commitment or was downright emotionally abusive. And if you think you’re so worthless because of something in your past that you *can't* tell them about it - you’re not ready or able to make a commitment to someone. If you have to hide something you believe to be important - a deal-breaker, in this case, and in Hadley’s mind - then you’re betraying the other person. So while I’d felt a lot of sympathy for Hadley all along, and certainly never felt she owed it to Kevin to love him back just because he’s such a good guy and a loyal one, and one who cares about her kids, I couldn’t see beyond her selfishness in keeping that past a secret at this point. (I may appear not to be cutting the poor woman any breaks, but this one pushes SO MANY BUTTONS for me. It wasn’t much fun to see why I was slamming so hard against the way she acted, obvious as it was, but yeah. You knowingly enter what’s supposed to be a commitment with someone while lying to them? It’s not okay.) (hide spoiler)] I’ve been very verbal, or possibly just long-winded, about things that didn’t work for me in the book, to the extent that it might not seem an obvious 4 star rating. Some of that appreciation is left-over good stuff from earlier books, so if, for example, Russ and Clare seemed out of character in a few scenes, it’s because they’ve grown into characters I believe in - to the point of readerly rationality and beyond - and care about - ditto. A few scenes, even ones relating to an important plot-line, won't destroy all of that. I enjoyed the thriller aspect (with the above caveats) about as much as I’ve enjoyed earlier mystery aspects too, which helped. Like almost everyone else, I loved Bob Mongue, and his deepening from a bit of a jerk side-character (and a HUGE jerk, in Russ’s opinion) to a good, and interesting guy was great. And another one who makes me really happy is Geoff Burns - one of the least appealing characters in the first book, aggressive and an irritant to almost everyone, he’s still arrogant and brash, but he also comes through time and again for Clare. I also hope that Lyle gets more of a life outside the job in books-to-come, as I’m becoming very fond of him. Also, that little reveal he gets near the end? Yikes. Even though I know how utterly pathetic it is, I’ll admit that I had to check towards the end to see if something I very much feared would happen did, and it wasn’t the tragedies I should have been worrying about. (view spoiler)[ I never thought that Clare would lose the baby, or that she or Russ would die, obviously, and I was pretty sure Mikayla would be okay, if only just. I didn’t even think Bob would be in serious trouble, but I was convinced that Oscar was going to go out heroically. (hide spoiler)] My priorities may be pretty screwed up, but it still made me very happy that we didn’t have to go there. It would be nice to hear that book 9 would be out soon, though it probably won't, but this is an okay place to take a bit of a breather before the next storms hit Millers Kill.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This was fine, but there was too much going on and I'm not really a fan of the books that take place in a super-short timeframe. (view spoiler)[I was so sure Clare was going to lose the baby. And then she and Russ were both threatened with losing their jobs and I was like WHAT? IS THE WHOLE SERIES BEING BLOWN UP? And, ugh, I guess now I'll have to deal with, "Russ and everyone might lose their jobs!" for another book, which I am not looking forward to. I wasn't convinced of the resolution of Russ' This was fine, but there was too much going on and I'm not really a fan of the books that take place in a super-short timeframe. (view spoiler)[I was so sure Clare was going to lose the baby. And then she and Russ were both threatened with losing their jobs and I was like WHAT? IS THE WHOLE SERIES BEING BLOWN UP? And, ugh, I guess now I'll have to deal with, "Russ and everyone might lose their jobs!" for another book, which I am not looking forward to. I wasn't convinced of the resolution of Russ's uncertainty about the baby. (Baby better be born in the next book.) And then the Hadley/Flynn story, I DON'T EVEN KNOW. I liked them getting together, but so much of the rest of it made me REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE. Poor Hadley with the porn coming out after all. BUT NO, FLYNN, YOU DO NOT GET TO JUDGE HER. And then did Flynn really plant that meth? UGH. But I liked Bob getting a big part of the story! And Oscar, of course. (hide spoiler)]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Although I only discovered Julia Spencer-Fleming's amazing Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series this past summer, I immediately became a steadfast fan. The bonus I received for playing catch-up is that I only had to wait four months between my reading of One Was a Soldier, #7 in the series, and Through the Evil Days, #8. Also, I had the fan-dream-come-true opportunity to meet Julia at Bouchercon in September and take a drive through a bit of the Adirondacks, eating lunch at a rustic inn on La Although I only discovered Julia Spencer-Fleming's amazing Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series this past summer, I immediately became a steadfast fan. The bonus I received for playing catch-up is that I only had to wait four months between my reading of One Was a Soldier, #7 in the series, and Through the Evil Days, #8. Also, I had the fan-dream-come-true opportunity to meet Julia at Bouchercon in September and take a drive through a bit of the Adirondacks, eating lunch at a rustic inn on Lake Sacandaga. Driving on one of the mountainous roads within the stunning beauty of these mountains served to drive home the point of how treacherous the roads would be in winter weather conditions. So, I was well and truly primed for Through the Evil Days and its wintry setting amid the overwhelming landscape of towering trees and isolation. Of course, Spencer-Fleming's description of the powerful setting envelopes the reader into what becomes an inanimate character that challenges the strength of the resourceful, determined Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson and Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. Complex and complicated are conditions with which the two are all too familiar. In reviewing a series in which you arrive at its eighth book, it is simply impossible not to include spoilers concerning previous books. So, I feel compelled to post a warning for the remainder of the review. These novels are way too good to read in any way other than building one upon the other. So, my advice for optimum enjoyment is to read the books before the reviews. Its already a given that Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series is a remarkable one, so just hop on and enjoy the ride. In Through the Evil Days, January has arrived in Millers Kill, along with the wintry weather that tests endurance. Of course, Clare and Russ are taking their delayed honeymoon now, ice fishing in a remote lake area (Russ' idea), with Clare five and a half months pregnant. The fact that they've only been married less than three months is a typical Clare/Russ complication, one that this time is causing discussion of concern in the Episcopal diocese that Clare serves. Russ has his problems, too, with discussions from the town council of disbanding the police department. Before the couple can get out of town to start their chilly honeymoon, they are called to the scene of a deadly fire during the night, where two people have died and a child has been kidnapped. Russ hands over the investigation to his second-in-command Lyle MacCauley and vows to keep in touch as best he can from an area where communication is sketchy at best. MacCauley pairs up officers Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox to deal with the minutiae of the investigation, a pairing that has its own history and entanglements. With the unexpected arrival of the ice storm of epic proportions, everyone's lives and jobs are thrown into disarray. The news that the missing child has had a recent liver transplant and is probably in need of her life-saving medications puts a time crunch on solving the arson/kidnapping case amidst the impossible weather conditions and impaired communication systems. Clare and Russ are cut off from any news from Millers Kill and vice versa. Of course, the honeymooning couple has no need of communicating. Right? Well, nothing is ever that simple or easy with the pair. The investigation and hunt for the eight-year-old girl will reach well beyond Millers Kill, and, as usual, Clare and Russ will be in the thick of it. Reading this series continues to be so satisfying, truly like an old, dear friend visiting. I feel fortunate indeed to have discovered this talented author and this engaging series when I did. Although I came late to the party, I have made up for lost time and now am sitting on the front row of fans anticipating the next thrilling story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    This latest installment in the series reads a lot more like a thriller than a mystery, with Clare and Russ trapped in a not-so-wondrous winter wonderland and the rest of the MKPD fighting the worst storm in years as well as trying to find the kidnappers of a little girl. The two plots eventually connect, fortunately, keeping the story from feeling like two books in one, and the solution to the mystery has enough twists to make it interesting. I thought the main kidnapper was a little too evil to This latest installment in the series reads a lot more like a thriller than a mystery, with Clare and Russ trapped in a not-so-wondrous winter wonderland and the rest of the MKPD fighting the worst storm in years as well as trying to find the kidnappers of a little girl. The two plots eventually connect, fortunately, keeping the story from feeling like two books in one, and the solution to the mystery has enough twists to make it interesting. I thought the main kidnapper was a little too evil to be realistic--he kept coming up with the perfect threats to keep Clare and Russ under his power--but as an aspect of the thriller genre, he made sense. I'm still more interested in the characters, of course, and the real story (from my point of view) is a matter of transitions, where some beloved characters face decisions that will dramatically change their lives: Clare faces the fallout from her premarital pregnancy, Russ receives word that the MKPD may be shut down by the Miller's Kill aldermen, Hadley's ex shows up with a horrifying ultimatum, and Kevin receives a job offer that will boost his career but would require him to leave Miller's Kill. The tension of the mystery-thriller plot is always in the foreground, but we're never far from wondering what's going to happen to these characters, and there's no guarantee that there will be a happy ending for any of them. (Though in truth, if there were happy endings all around, the series would end, and I don't want that.) Spoilers: (view spoiler)[The MKPD being shut down doesn't raise the tension the way, say, Clare's pregnancy did, because if Russ isn't a cop, a lot of the justification for the series goes away. Unless Spencer-Fleming really is done with her series (and I pray she isn't) I anticipate this being a short-term issue, and I also anticipate Russ being a stay-at-home dad for a bit. Speaking of, I kind of hope they have a daughter. He'd be a really great dad to a daughter. And Kevin. Oh, sweet Kevin. Yes, I know your heart is broken, and yes, I know Hadley having been a porn star is hard to deal with, but you are a complete idiot. Not talking to her about it at all--that's a really knee-jerk, juvenile action, and I love where that drama is going to take us. Also, did I mention you're an idiot? Finally--this is probably just me, but I was really disturbed that Russ's first thought when he learned about Clare's pregnancy was abortion. This whole book is full of him being really self-centered, and honestly, I don't blame him, even though that scene where he tells his old enemy (and THIS is who he pours his heart out to?) that he blames Clare for messing up with her pills made me really angry. And I like how dealing with the kidnappers gets him to really see how wrong he's been. But somehow I thought that his and Linda's experiences with multiple miscarriages would have taught him that a terminated pregnancy, even an unwanted pregnancy, is never an easy thing, and he was awfully casual about it. (hide spoiler)] I feel less impatient to get to the next book than I was with some of the other installments, which is fortunate because it's probably going to be a couple of years before that next book is available. I liked that there was both resolution and uncertainty, because I found that more satisfying than perfect resolution would be. In fact, I think "satisfying" is probably an accurate description of my overall feelings about this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    I've been a fan of this series ever since I discovered the first book, and eagerly await each new book as it is released. I was delighted to receive a free review copy of this book. "Through the Evil Days" (since main character Clare is an Episcopal priest, all the titles are drawn from Anglican hymns) picks up shortly after the last book left off, with Clare newly sober and newly pregnant, and her husband Russ reeling and a bit resentful about the unexpected pregnancy. Clare and Russ are planni I've been a fan of this series ever since I discovered the first book, and eagerly await each new book as it is released. I was delighted to receive a free review copy of this book. "Through the Evil Days" (since main character Clare is an Episcopal priest, all the titles are drawn from Anglican hymns) picks up shortly after the last book left off, with Clare newly sober and newly pregnant, and her husband Russ reeling and a bit resentful about the unexpected pregnancy. Clare and Russ are planning to spend a week at an isolated cabin as a sort of honeymoon, and even though the weather isn't looking great (ice and snow) and a few new cases are brewing at the police station (a missing child and an arson), the couple decides to stick to their plan to get away. Clare offers to give a ride to a teen mom and her baby who are headed in the same direction to stay with the teen's boyfriend. The presence of the teen and her child delay the inevitable unpleasant conversations that the couple need to have: Clare's bishop is making noise about bringing her up on "conduct unbecoming a priest" charges since she got pregnant before she was married, while the Miller's Kill council is considering eliminating the police force, which would put Russ out of a job. So even though Clare and Russ are finally together, Spencer-Fleming does a good job of setting up plenty of conflict to keep tensions high. Most of the book takes place within a window of a few days, as the ice and snow turn into a massive storm that downs trees, knocks out power lines and cell phone towers, and blocks roads. Up at the cabin, Clare and Russ are coping with the fallout from their career crises, while concerned about the teen and her child they gave a ride to (they suspect not all is as it seems there) and trying to monitor the missing child case going on at home. Supporting characters Hadley and Kevin are left doing much of the legwork on the missing child/arson case, and Hadley is also dealing with the unexpected appearance of her ex-husband, a slimy guy who is trying to use child custody to extort money from her. As the weather turns into "storm of the century" mayhem, Russ and Clare are isolated in the woods while Hadley and Kevin are struggling to keep their investigation on track and respond to the many weather-related incidents. It's probably not a spoiler to say that Russ and Clare end up entangled with some nasty bad guys while cut off from home, and that Kevin and Hadley end up in a case more complicated than they originally imagined. The tension ratchets up to an action-packed finale, and in typical Spencer-Fleming style, we're left with some cliffhangers to whet our appetite for the next book in the series. What I liked about the book: 1. Spencer-Fleming manages to keep characterization developing in new directions. 2. Suspense that doesn't let up (arguably the middle part, where Russ & Clare are stuck in the cabin could have been condensed a bit, but it didn't bother me too much) 3. Lots of attention paid to supporting characters Hadley and Kevin, and their attraction to each other 4. Plot is twisted and intricate without crossing over into the wildly implausible 5. Great writing 6. Terrific cliff-hanging ending (but all the loose ends from this particular plot are tied up) What I didn't like: Having to wait a year from the next book in the series.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Spencer

    4.5 stars I honestly don’t remember who was the first to recommend Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne series to me. I know Rachel Potter and Jean Wan here at AAR have raved about these books, as have posters on our message boards and various other bloggers I read. And I have to say that I agree with them. These books are fabulous. Spencer-Fleming gives readers good mysteries, but more importantly, her characters are intelligently written and over the course of the 8(so 4.5 stars I honestly don’t remember who was the first to recommend Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ van Alstyne series to me. I know Rachel Potter and Jean Wan here at AAR have raved about these books, as have posters on our message boards and various other bloggers I read. And I have to say that I agree with them. These books are fabulous. Spencer-Fleming gives readers good mysteries, but more importantly, her characters are intelligently written and over the course of the 8(so far) books in the series, she takes readers through a complex relationship arc. The history between Episcopal priest Clare and police chief Russ requires both characters and readers to wrestle with some tough questions, but the more I get to know these characters, the more I care about them even if some of the dilemmas they wrestle with make me uncomfortable on occasion. And now for the obligatory spoiler warning – this blog contains spoilers for some of the earlier books in Spencer-Fleming’s series. For February I read the most recent book in the series, 2013′s Through the Evil Days. I would say that it’s not my favorite in the series, but it’s still a very solid entry and I’d give it a B+. It’s not a DIK for me, but it’s mighty close. This book picks up not long after where One Was a Soldier leaves off. Claire and Russ are now married and awaiting the arrival of the child they never planned to have. Given that it’s obvious Clare got pregnant before the wedding, she has possible church disciplinary proceedings to look forward to, and she and Russ are also working through the tension related to their new marriage and unplanned pregnancy. And if that wasn’t enough, their honeymoon trip happens to coincide with a storm of epic proportions. And yes, they also get sucked into a murder investigation. This is a partial review. You can find the complete text on the All About Romance blog: http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=155...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brianne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had very mixed emotions about this one. I did not like some of the plot elements - going to an isolated cabin in the winter in upstate New York for a honeymoon? insisting on going when there is an ice storm coming your way? the 5.5 month pregnant woman agreeing to this? Knowing the situation the characters found themselves in, the isolation seemed like a good idea. Then events just spun out of control. Once they got to the lake and crossed paths with the bad guys, I can see why the rest of eve I had very mixed emotions about this one. I did not like some of the plot elements - going to an isolated cabin in the winter in upstate New York for a honeymoon? insisting on going when there is an ice storm coming your way? the 5.5 month pregnant woman agreeing to this? Knowing the situation the characters found themselves in, the isolation seemed like a good idea. Then events just spun out of control. Once they got to the lake and crossed paths with the bad guys, I can see why the rest of everything played out the way it did. And although some of the events seemed impossible, or not the best choice for a pregnant woman, once in danger, there was not much else they could do because that had to survive. I really did not like that there was not much communication between Russ and Clare. They are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and many other issues and there is no discussion. We see some movement int their points of view and acceptance of the conditions through the actions of the story, but it was minimal. It did not seem as if there was enough to get these two people to where they need to be, although that might be in the next book. The Flynn and Knox storyline is totally left hanging. I hope there is more to that as we move into the next book. The writing was excellent as usual, and we learn a lot about some of our favorite characters, especially Flynn and Knox. The descriptions of some of the area was engaging and it is obvious that the weather was yet another character in this installment. The plot just did not totally work for me. I wanted so much more from this installment, based on where we were left off with Russ and Clare at the end of Once Was a Soldier

  20. 4 out of 5

    Keri

    What an awesome addition to this series!!! I didn't want it to be over, as Clare and Russ start their short honeymoon. But when you're 5 months preggers and a female Episcopalian priest who just married the local Sheriff, things tend to get sticky. Now Clare has a week to decide to resign quietly or face charges from her bishop of conduct unbecoming to a priest. Russ for his part has his own problems as the city council has decided that Miller's Kill may not need their own police force. Never mi What an awesome addition to this series!!! I didn't want it to be over, as Clare and Russ start their short honeymoon. But when you're 5 months preggers and a female Episcopalian priest who just married the local Sheriff, things tend to get sticky. Now Clare has a week to decide to resign quietly or face charges from her bishop of conduct unbecoming to a priest. Russ for his part has his own problems as the city council has decided that Miller's Kill may not need their own police force. Never mind the fact that he is a 52 year old facing the fact that he is going to be a daddy for the first time in his life. Let's throw in a couple of murders, a missing sickly little girl, a drug dealer and things get even more tenuous for Clare and Russ. Then let's throw in the situation with Hadely and Kevin...OMGosh I didn't see that coming with Hadley nor did I see that ending coming for them. I so hope they work that out, because I am in love with Kevin myself now. I CAN'T wait for the next one and I can't wait for Russ to have to change his first stinky diaper. Please let it be a little girl ...he is going to melt like big wax teddy bear. WAY TO GO JSF, the wait was worth it. If you haven't read this series, start with the first book to get the full effect of Clare and Russ's relationship woes. But be warned in the early books there is situations that you may not like.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Now I'm all caught up on the series, and I want to know what happens NEXT. Though this wasn't my favorite--too much of Clare and Russ's honeymoon from Hell felt a bit too conveniently messed up, on top of some threats of life-changing proportions in their lives (and I'm not just talking about impending parenthood, though the book does deal with that as well). It does say something for the propulsive nature of the narrative that I managed to overcome my loathing for kidnapped-child stories. Thoug Now I'm all caught up on the series, and I want to know what happens NEXT. Though this wasn't my favorite--too much of Clare and Russ's honeymoon from Hell felt a bit too conveniently messed up, on top of some threats of life-changing proportions in their lives (and I'm not just talking about impending parenthood, though the book does deal with that as well). It does say something for the propulsive nature of the narrative that I managed to overcome my loathing for kidnapped-child stories. Though, as others have pointed out, the mystery isn't really the strong point in these stories, this one had a nice little twist at the very end that made my jaw drop. And the character development is once again stellar. Though for a while I wanted to kick Russ in the teeth on Clare's behalf. One thing I wanted to mention, with the return of State Police Lieutenant Bob Mongue, is the knack Spencer-Fleming has for presenting characters in new ways, so the reader ends up with a more nuanced view of them. Mongue appears in earlier stories--and in the beginning of this one--as a semi-unfriendly rival for Russ, but I suspect I won't be the only reader who will close this book with a much greater appreciation of him. That's one of the things that makes this series such a rich one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    K

    In the 8th book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series finds Clare and Russ married, trying to get a grip on Clare’s pregnancy (which Russ didn’t want) and hoping to get to their long-delayed honeymoon. But first they must deal with their own personal problems. While Reverend Clare has been married two and a half months she is five and a half months pregnant. So the Bishop gives Clare one week to decide whether she will resign or be brought up on charges of sexual misconduct and conduct In the 8th book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series finds Clare and Russ married, trying to get a grip on Clare’s pregnancy (which Russ didn’t want) and hoping to get to their long-delayed honeymoon. But first they must deal with their own personal problems. While Reverend Clare has been married two and a half months she is five and a half months pregnant. So the Bishop gives Clare one week to decide whether she will resign or be brought up on charges of sexual misconduct and conduct unbecoming to a priest (even though she is now married to the baby’s father). At the same time Millers Kill Police Chief Russ hears that the Millers Kill Alderman are going into a closed-door meeting and finds out they are considering closing down the Millers Kill Police Department in favor of having the state police handle the work. Then late one night Clare and Russ are called to a fire at the MacAllen house in which the old couple didn’t survive, Reverend Clare for religious support and Police Chief Russ for police support. At the fire they discover the family’s scared dog, Oscar, huddled outside the burning residence and Clare insists they take him home with them. Russ and Clare leave for their week-long honeymoon at an ice-fishing cabin up in the mountains. It is so isolated even phones don’t work. After they leave it is discovered that the MacAllens were actually shot in the heads before the fire started. And they were fostering an 8-year old child, Mikayla, who recently had a liver transplant, but there isn’t any sign of Mikayla in the house ruins. If she is still alive she needs access to immunosuppressant drugs to keep her body from rejecting the transplant or she will die. There is a sudden desperation in finding her and her possible kidnappers. Deputy Chief Lyle MacAuley takes the lead in the investigation. He assigns Officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn, on-again off-again lovers, to look for the girl. They end up stumbling into a very large Meth ring and a drug lord in secret custody which might be the reason for Mikayla’s disappearance. The FBI and State Police become involved tangling the search further. But Hadley also has personal problems. She is fighting her ex-husband who has suddenly appeared demanding either their two children or the sex tapes she made long ago. Hadley is in a quandary as no one in Millers Kill knows of her past “job” but she can’t give him custody of the children. It isn’t all peace and quiet at the ice-fishing cabin as both Russ and Claire (and Oscar) accidentally discover there are dangerous men nearby who also have a connection to the missing girl and the Meth ring. Add in the snow/ice storm of the century that has Millers Kill and the rest of the state in total lockdown and everyone is fighting for their lives. A gritty story with characters that continue to grow and develop. It does have a few too many coincidences to be a perfect story but if you have enjoyed previous books in this series you will enjoy this one. And the ending does not tie-up the story lines which means book #9 will be out someday.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Red

    I received an Advanced Readers Copy, so I could review it. I can't tell you how excited & happy this makes me! Evil Days is a great ride. I stayed up too late reading, I ignored the new puppy, I called in favors so I could keep turning the pages. This is just plain, old-fashioned good writing that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The tension builds and builds, and when you finally reach the end there is one more surprise. I closed the book with grunt of surprise, and I’m still thinking about the I received an Advanced Readers Copy, so I could review it. I can't tell you how excited & happy this makes me! Evil Days is a great ride. I stayed up too late reading, I ignored the new puppy, I called in favors so I could keep turning the pages. This is just plain, old-fashioned good writing that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The tension builds and builds, and when you finally reach the end there is one more surprise. I closed the book with grunt of surprise, and I’m still thinking about the repercussions from the last page. What in the world will happen now? This is the 8th installment of the Reverend Clare and Chief Van Alstyne novels. It has all of the elements that I love about this series: Plot: It’s hard to discuss the various plot elements without giving away too much of the story as it naturally unfolds. Clare and Russ take off for a week of honeymooning while ice fishing. Clare is 5 months pregnant, Russ isn’t sure how he feels about that. To complicate matters (because there are always complications) they have to deal with the ice storm of the century, someone might lose their job, a little girl has been kidnapped and if she doesn’t get her medication she will die, and there are a LOT of baddies running around. Characters: We continue to get character development and story movement not only from Clare & Russ, but also from a wealth of townspeople and ancillary characters. Officers Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox have the B plot square on their shoulders, which they handle with aplomb. The chemistry between them is sizzling! About the only character we don’t hear from is Russ’ mom. Atmosphere: Maine in midwinter is not a force to be trifled with. I think the weather was manipulated primarily as a means to limit communications between characters. With our current “always on” technology level, it becomes harder and harder to put characters in a position where they are out of touch. Cue the 3 day ice storm of the century. Evil Days is a very cold read, beware. You’ll want a cozy blanket nearby as you travel across and through ice, snow, sleet and every manner of frigidness. Brrr!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    The story of “Through the Evil Days” spins out over one week in the lives of our favorite Millers Kill residents, all of whom face daunting challenges and inner apprehension as they are thrown into situations fraught with emotional upheaval. While Russ and Clare struggle to come to grips with her unexpected pregnancy, Clare once again finds herself at odds with the bishop and Russ is caught up in an unexpected issue with the aldermen. The department’s investigation of an early-morning house fire The story of “Through the Evil Days” spins out over one week in the lives of our favorite Millers Kill residents, all of whom face daunting challenges and inner apprehension as they are thrown into situations fraught with emotional upheaval. While Russ and Clare struggle to come to grips with her unexpected pregnancy, Clare once again finds herself at odds with the bishop and Russ is caught up in an unexpected issue with the aldermen. The department’s investigation of an early-morning house fire that has claimed the life of two people quickly takes an even more ominous turn when a kidnapping is revealed. Officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn are thrown together in the investigation, forcing them to cope with difficult moments and tough decisions even as Mother Nature unleashes the ice storm of the century, stranding Russ and Clare in an isolated cabin at the lake where they have gone for their long-delayed honeymoon. With the dangerous Adirondack storm knocking out communications, closing roads, and bringing daily life to a virtual standstill, nerves are frayed, tension is running high, and the clock is ticking . . . . Julia Spencer-Fleming’s eagerly-awaited eighth installment of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series doesn’t disappoint. Here we find all the elements we’ve come to expect from her books: a tightly-crafted story that puts the reader right in the middle of a multi-layered mystery, exploration and insight into personal relationships, life-changing reveals and decisions. The story teems with excitement, offering up enough twists and turns along the way to keep the reader eagerly page-turning; as always, there are a few gut-wrenching “wow . . . I never saw that coming” moments to ratchet up the turmoil. It’s a powerful, emotional, can’t-put-it-down masterpiece that will keep readers on the edge of their seats right to the very last word. A highly recommended, satisfying read worthy of far more than five stars . . . don’t miss this one.

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Bryant

    My spouse and I both just read this and agree -- It was like candy, or a box of cracker jacks -- enjoyable to consume, but then you are done. We have both read all of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne books, so we knew what we were getting into. On the plus side: the book is engaging, a real page-turner if you are into this sort of suspense novel. Lots of action, lots of interesting characters, lots of nasty upstate New York weather to worry about on your heroes' behalf. The plot is, of cours My spouse and I both just read this and agree -- It was like candy, or a box of cracker jacks -- enjoyable to consume, but then you are done. We have both read all of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne books, so we knew what we were getting into. On the plus side: the book is engaging, a real page-turner if you are into this sort of suspense novel. Lots of action, lots of interesting characters, lots of nasty upstate New York weather to worry about on your heroes' behalf. The plot is, of course, quite ridiculous. An interrupted honeymoon, the storm of the century, an arson/murder/kidnapping to investigate and solve, a victim in danger of death if not saved in the nick of time (which, of course, we know from the start will happen, we just do not know how or when), and a threat to the livelihoods of not just one but both of our leading characters, all at once! Oh, and throw in some corrupt law enforcement, an unexpected pregnancy, an adopted dog, and a few other distractions and you have a convoluted plot worthy of a few evenings' reading. At one point after I had sputtered aloud several times about the ridiculous simultaneous overlapping threats and difficulties, my spouse told me to either suspend my disbelief or to stop reading. And she was right, of course. This type of book is no fun unless you do just plunge right in and ignore reality. And then i did and it was enjoyable to see it through and see how the heroes win and the bad guys lose. I might have given this book a fourth star were it not for one thing: the final chapter. Those last few pages took me down off the high of seeing the good guys win in a very fast and brutal way. I hated the ending. It was a nasty, nasty way for the author to treat the reader who had just invested all that time and emotional energy (not to mention the purchase price, if that applies). So i felt a bit mistreated to say the least.

  26. 5 out of 5

    C.P. Stringham

    What's the worst thing about this book? That I have to wait for JSF to release the next. I picked up my copy on 11/13/13 with every intention of drawing reading time out as long as possible to make it last. Seriously. Good intentions, lack of discipline. Fifty pages here, fifty pages there, and one-hundred pages before bed. Before I knew it, I was on her acknowledgements page at the back of the book. In five days, it was done. I have come to think of Russ and Clare as cherished old friends I hav What's the worst thing about this book? That I have to wait for JSF to release the next. I picked up my copy on 11/13/13 with every intention of drawing reading time out as long as possible to make it last. Seriously. Good intentions, lack of discipline. Fifty pages here, fifty pages there, and one-hundred pages before bed. Before I knew it, I was on her acknowledgements page at the back of the book. In five days, it was done. I have come to think of Russ and Clare as cherished old friends I have to wait an excruciatingly long to see between visits. The May-December romance angle is perfect and they compliment each other nicely. Because JSF does such a superb job of using the Adirondack's environment and weather to create her intense tales, I had to see it firsthand and spent my 2011 vacation in the region. I wanted to see Russ and Clare's stomping grounds from Glens Falls to Lake George and beyond. I don't want to give the story away so my review will be vague on plot. Through the Evil Days was fast-paced and gripping. The action was realistic. Russ and Clare were contending with bad men from the meth world and JSF did not sugarcoat how these thugs operated as she created her story. The drug world is unforgiving and its members are without conscience. Full tilt action. I love when a book grabs you by the throat and makes the pit of your stomach drop out--and then, to make the tension last, JSF cuts away to a different character and scene leaving you to hang on helplessly until you find out how the previous scene plays out. Flynn and Knox had plenty of story time and we learned more about Hadley's past and why she thinks the way she does. As a long-time JSF fan, I have to say my favorite part of the book was the amount of page time Deputy Chief Lyle McAuley had. I love Lyle. Looking forward to #9. Let's hope it isn't another 2 1/2 years.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    #8 in the Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne series. The book starts with posing 3 problems with a one week deadline. Clare has been charged with un-priestly behavior for her pre-marital pregnancy and the Bishop has given her a week to quietly resign from St. Alban's or face a trial by the church. Russ has found that in a week the town council will decide whether to place the question of eliminating the Miller's Kill Police Department and turn its functions over to the State Police. Kevin Flynn #8 in the Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne series. The book starts with posing 3 problems with a one week deadline. Clare has been charged with un-priestly behavior for her pre-marital pregnancy and the Bishop has given her a week to quietly resign from St. Alban's or face a trial by the church. Russ has found that in a week the town council will decide whether to place the question of eliminating the Miller's Kill Police Department and turn its functions over to the State Police. Kevin Flynn has received an employment offer from the Syracuse PD and must respond in a week. After a week of crime, weather, and angst these problems have reached a resolution but author Spencer-Fleming has raised more issues. This is disappointing due to her most recent writing speed - 2 books in the last 5 years. The writing is great, but at this pace, the books should be self-contained. Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne series - Newly married (and pregnant) Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Miller's Kill Police Chief Russ van Alstyne are grateful for the solitude of their ice-fishing honeymoon, as they both have a tangle of professional and personal complications to sort. But soon after they arrive, a snowstorm begins burying the region. As the honeymooners make preparations to depart, they encounter a pair of cagey meth heads and find themselves battling criminals and the elements. In the meantime, Miller's Kill is left without Russ to solve the murders of local foster parents and the disappearance of their foster child. Officers Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn, awkward after an ill-advised fling, are forced to struggle together against terrified witnesses and blizzard conditions to reveal the kidnapping's connection to a local methamphetamine kingpin.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    One of the strengths of Julia Spencer-Fleming's series is that she never writes the same book twice. That also means that some of the enjoyable scenes of previous books, like the banter with Harlene in the police department and with Clare and her church secretary are minimal, because the action is set away from the town of Millers Kill and is moved into the Adirondack wilds. Vestry meetings bookend this story, since the Reverend Clare Fergusson is under a bishop's review for "conduct unbecomin One of the strengths of Julia Spencer-Fleming's series is that she never writes the same book twice. That also means that some of the enjoyable scenes of previous books, like the banter with Harlene in the police department and with Clare and her church secretary are minimal, because the action is set away from the town of Millers Kill and is moved into the Adirondack wilds. Vestry meetings bookend this story, since the Reverend Clare Fergusson is under a bishop's review for "conduct unbecoming a priest" due to her pregnancy out of wedlock. Her recent marriage to Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne is strained because of his conflicting feelings over fatherhood and her recurring battle fatigue. Their honeymoon at a remote lakeside cabin is a way for them to sort things out, but their trip is the beginning of a brutal winter storm, and a complex police investigation back in Millers Kill involving a kidnapping, murder of federal agents, a drug ring, and witness intimidation. The action ends up involving Clare and Russ in their mountain retreat, and it becomes a suspenseful story of survival. This is an engrossing and complicated police procedural introducing a fun, new character (Oscar the German Shepherd) and developing the relationship between Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox from previous books. Cue the title, though, and know that this is about serious issues in communities and in personal relationships. In true Julia style, the mystery ends on one of her signature cliff hangers. It’s good to know that the series continues!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diane Waldo

    I highly recommend this latest installment in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Picking up where "One Was a Soldier" ended, Clare and Russ are still trying to come to grips with her pregnancy. Her job is threatened because of it; their marriage is threatened because of Russ's feelings about it; and the pregnancy itself is threatened because of events which take place on their honeymoon. Julia Spencer-Fleming manages to weave together the pregnancy story line with a compelling saga inv I highly recommend this latest installment in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. Picking up where "One Was a Soldier" ended, Clare and Russ are still trying to come to grips with her pregnancy. Her job is threatened because of it; their marriage is threatened because of Russ's feelings about it; and the pregnancy itself is threatened because of events which take place on their honeymoon. Julia Spencer-Fleming manages to weave together the pregnancy story line with a compelling saga involving a kidnapped girl who has had a liver transplant and may be without her immunosuppresant medications, a drug lord's efforts to eliminate anyone who might testify against him, Hadley Knox and Kevin Flynn's rekindling romance, Hadley's run-in with her ex from California who wants to take their kids back with him, and the ice storm of the century. All of these events take place within one week's time, making for a very fast-paced read. While it's not as important to read the other books in the series as it is with previous books, I would still recommend that they be read in order. If that's not possible, read this one first and then go back and catch up on the others. Disclaimer: I received an Advance Readers' Edition of this book from the author with the proviso that I review it in as many places as possible.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is one of my favorite book series. Clare and Russ are such good, honorable people that it is a pleasure to read about them and root for them, both as individuals and as a couple. I really like them. And I like the setting of the books - upstate New York. Miller's Kill is almost like a character in itself because so much of the action is dependent on the specifics of weather, geography, people and culture of that place. As the series has progressed, Spencer-Fleming has introduced secondary c This is one of my favorite book series. Clare and Russ are such good, honorable people that it is a pleasure to read about them and root for them, both as individuals and as a couple. I really like them. And I like the setting of the books - upstate New York. Miller's Kill is almost like a character in itself because so much of the action is dependent on the specifics of weather, geography, people and culture of that place. As the series has progressed, Spencer-Fleming has introduced secondary characters that are taking on larger roles. We are getting to know them - especially Hadley and Kevin - gradually, which just adds to the books' depth of character and story. This latest book in the series weaves together the personal stories of the characters with an involving and evolving mystery. Just when I thought I understood what was happening, Spencer-Fleming threw in a plot twist or character development that I hadn't seen coming. And yet it is all believable ... well, maybe not all the physical danger that Russ and Clare go through in every book. How many times can they escape what looks to be certain death? But thankfully, they do survive another adventure. And I can't wait for their next adventure, one that will be involving children. How will Russ and Clare survive parenthood? Stay tuned ...

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