I always say I’m not a fan of mystery but I think after reading In the Bleak Midwinter, I need to change my tune.
Clare Fergusson is new to the small town of Miller’s Kill, NY. She’s been recently hired as the Episcopalian priest for St. Alban’s church. Before she was a priest, she used to be a helicopter pilot in the army. This says a lot about Clare’s personality. Clare is tough, ballsy, strong but that’s balanced with her empathetic side. She takes her duties as priest seriously – seriously enough to put her life in danger.
One night, not too long after coming to Miller’s Kill, Clare finds a newborn baby on the church’s doorstep. This discovery leads to Clare eventually crossing Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne's path. Russ used to be in the army as well, and went back to his hometown once he retired. Russ and Clare kind of team up to discover who the baby's parents are. But when a murder happens, Russ wants Clare to keep away and to let him take over the investigation.
Clare is duty-bound to discover the truth though, so she kind of does some sleuthing on the side. Which keeps her crossing Russ' path time and time again. This leads to a developing friendship - which causes some of the townsfolk to talk.
First of all - the mystery aspect to this book. I really really enjoyed it. I am horrible and figuring stuff out so this book had me on my toes and I liked how it played out.
Now the characters. I love Clare. She's a straight-shooter and tells thing like they are. She does need to work on her diplomacy a bit. She's also a bit more progressive than the older members of her congregation can appreciate. And Clare is tough. So even though she's put herself in situations where I would call a lesser heroine TSTL, it works for Clare. I know she can take care of herself and she does, time and time again. She often jumps first and asks questions later - and although she doesn't come away unscathed from these kinds of situations, she does come away from them. Clare doesn't believe she's invulnerable though. She's got a level head on her shoulders, most of the time.
Now there's Russ. He's a few years older than Clare and happily married. He takes his duty to Miller's Kill and its residents seriously. He is an atheist so it's funny to see how he is around Clare. At first he was uncomfortable, but what lets them be friends is that he treats her like a regular person, not someone of the cloth. The reader can see how close these two are becoming, without their even realizing it until it's too late. Those last few pages of the book had me super eager to continue on with book #2. I had to see where they went with their newfound insight into their friendship.
I'm ever so glad I read In the Bleak Midwinter. I loved Julia's writing and the world she has created is very interesting indeed. I've been craving a heroine like Clare for a while and I'm glad someone wrote her.