Thursday, June 05, 2008

Julia Spencer-Fleming, I SHALL NOT WANT

How many ways can you read the title of Spencer-Fleming's latest mystery? The book is scheduled for release on Tuesday June 10 -- if you've already signed up for a copy, clear your schedule. I couldn't put it down. Poor Dave almost had to do without supper this evening ...

This is the sixth in the highly successful series featuring Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and local police chief Russ Van Alstyne, caught in small-town disasters not far from Saratoga, in the Adirondacks. When book five (ALL MORTAL FLESH) ended, Clare and Russ had been through the kind of trauma that can permanently separate people who dearly love each other: Clare killed a dangerous psychopath in order to save Russ, whose wife meanwhile died in a catastrophe that both Clare and Russ would have done everything to prevent -- but didn't have the chance. And after walking away from becoming lovers when Russ's wife lived, the two seem permanently unable to get past this death.

That's where things stand as I SHALL NOT WANT opens. And although the pair struggle to not cross each other's paths, the town of Millers Kill provides all the coincidences and enforced closeness of an extended family. When Clare leaps to the support of the region's least fortunate, the Mexican migrant workers on the local farms, she's bound to run into Russ -- trouble follows on the heels of poverty and oppression, and Russ's task is to sort it out.

Bottom line: They both follow inner compulsions to see that justice is done. And they both have one heck of a lot of anger and pain to sort out, from what's happened between them.

"All right, dammit! Yes! If I hadn't gone into that goddam barn my wife would still be alive." He surged to his feet and grabbed her by the upper arm. "But don't you see? You would have been dead. You would have been the one to die..."

Spencer-Fleming's willingness to braid suspense, danger, humor, and passion creates a must-read novel that goes well beyond the crime/mystery genre. I completely forgive her for taking so long on this one -- because she got it completely and compellingly right.

Will there be a sequel? According to her web site,, she's not done yet with this pair. Thank goodness... but for now, I've got more copies in mind of I SHALL NOT WANT. The best measure of a book, I believe, is how many people you immediately want to give or commend it to. My score for this one is heading for the double digits. (And it's not even the holiday season for giving.) Wow! What a book! Yes, I shall want more...

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