Julia Spencer-Fleming is the author of the popular Rev Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne crime mystery series, which currently includes 8 books.
I found the book series interesting not only due to the crime mystery element but also because there is some romance involved between the two main characters, which is quite unlikely. A reverend (Clare) and a police officer (Russ) solve crimes and also find a strong attraction for each other.
Much to my disappointment when I started reading the books, there are only 8 so far, with the latest one published in 2012. The author’s website doesn’t mention any new books published or even mentions of drafts since then. Here’s hoping that this is not an abandoned series. But even if it is, the eight books are highly recommended reading for any crime mystery fan who doesn’t shy away from reading books with some romance included.
Here are the Julia Spencer Fleming books in order for her one and only series.
Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Series
- In the Bleak Midwinter, 2002
- A Fountain Filled with Blood, 2003
- Out of the Deep I Cry, 2004
- To Darkness and to Death, 2005
- All Mortal Flesh, 2006
- I Shall Not Want, 2008
- Letters to a Soldier, 2011 (short novella)
- One Was a Soldier, 2011
- Through the Evil Days, 2013
Julia Spencer Fleming Biography
Julia Spencer-Fleming was born at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1961. As an army brat, she mostly spent her childhood hopping from base to base on the move with her family.
Growing up, she studied acting and history at Ithaca College, following which she attended the University of Maine School of Law from where she got her J.D. law degree.
She was working on her debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, while she was pregnant, and she finished it about the time her third child, Virginia, was born. Of course, she still had to edit it and turn it into a presentable format, which she did while nursing during her maternity leave.
As she was busy with her children and taking care of her 180-year-old farmhouse in the Maine countryside, Julia didn’t have time to find an agent for her book. What she did instead was to send her manuscript to the St. Martin’s ‘Best First Novel’ contest just about one week before the deadline. That was around Halloween. As the winner would be announced the next April, she was hoping to get at least some editorial comment back for her book.
Instead, she got a call from Ruth Cavin, the well-known mystery editor (who since passed away in 2011), telling Julia that her book won the 2001 Best First Traditional Mystery Award, beating over 200 other entries.
Since then, a few of the Julia Spencer Fleming books went on to win several awards, including the Agatha Award, Anthony Award, Macavity Award, Dilys Award and Barry Award for In the Bleak Midwinter, and the Nero Wolfe Award and Gumshoe Award for All Mortal Flesh.
Currently, Julia Spencer-Fleming lives in Buxton, Maine with her husband, 3 children, and her pets.
Reading the Julia Spencer Fleming books in order is recommended for her series especially with regards to the developing relationship between the two main characters, and their backgrounds.
The author’s books include mystery, romance, a fast-paced plot, lots of action, and touch on various social issues such as adoption, environmentalism, homophobia/hate crimes, and vaccinations. There are books (like To Darkness and To Death) that are concluded in just around one full day, while others like Out of the Deep I Cry go back in time as well.
The two main characters, Clare and Russ are as opposites as they come. She is some 14 or 15 years younger than he is. While both are ex-Army people, they are very different. He is married, she is single. One is liberal, the other is a rather closed conservative. One is a northerner, while the other is a southerner. They couldn’t be any different than they already are. Yet, for some reason, there is a spark between them and a budding romance.
Some readers have actually stopped reading the books because they couldn’t reconcile Russ’s marriage with him being attracted to a younger woman (the typical cliche). However, if you do read all the books in order, things will be explained. We are talking about 3-dimensional people with real feelings and emotions. Things that can happen to each and every one of us.
Russ and Linda’s marriage has cracks, but none of them want to acknowledge them until much later. It is true what they say that if a marriage is rock-solid, the eyes are not wandering around. There is no reason for it.
Neither Russ nor Linda are bad people. Actually, I was surprised when Linda was introduced to the story (I think it was in Out of the Deep I Cry), I was surprised just how normal and basically a good person she is. Sadly, Linda never came first in my mind (even though he is Russ’s wife) because by then I was quite strongly focused on Clare and Russ’s developing…something.
That’s why reading the Julia Spencer Fleming books in order is so important. While the crimes solved in each book are rather standalone, the underlying personal threads are getting strong and stronger in each book.
Well, at least until book 8, that is because after that there are only crickets, and it’s been already over 4 years since the last Julia Spencer-Fleming book. Just sayin’.
Praise for Julia-Spencer Fleming
Spencer-Fleming’s most ambitious book yet – think The Best Years of Our Lives with corpses….fans will continue to be impressed by her resourceful determination never to tell the same story twice. (Kirkus Reviews)
A story of greed, betrayal, and wounded love. (John Hart)
this is a surefire winner, taking the linchpin Fergusson- Van Alstyne relationship to a new level, probing the personal lives of other members of the town’s police department,and personalizing the toll taken by war. (Booklist)
The plot is complicated, and the ethical issues are even thornier. Wisely, Spencer-Fleming treats them with the same delicacy she extends to Clare’s forbidden love. (The New York Times)
One of the most impressive “first” crime novels I’ve read. A priest, a cop, a baby on the doorstep, and a lot of snow combined with suspenseful results for one great book. (Charlaine Harris)
Don’t miss this one! You’ll be rooting for Clare Fergusson in this engaging and vital mystery. (April Henry)