In the predawn cold of a November morning, the Reverend Clare Fergusson is woken up by the Millers Kill, New York, search and rescue team, which is looking for a young woman presumed lost in the woods near her home. Little did Clare know that by the end of the day she and police chief Russ Van Alstyne would have dealt with deceit, death, desperation, and destruction.
To Darkness and to Death is the fourth in the Clare Fergusson–Russ Van Alstyne mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Like the previous novels, this one revolves around a greater social issue—here, it is the intersection among environmentalists, local businesses, and large industry. What's different in Darkness is that the entire book takes place in less than 24 hours.
Throughout the multilayered plot, we follow the men and women who are directly or peripherally affected by the changing economic situation in the small Adirondacks town. Emotions and money are the driving forces behind a variety of crimes from blackmail to murder. Can Clare and Russ discover what is accident and what is crime and if and how a group of seemingly unrelated events may be related?
Spencer-Fleming's series is a bit difficult to categorize. The ever-evolving relationship between Clare and Russ and each of their personal commitments to their separate lives are at the core of the books, making the novels lean toward the cozy. On the other hand the nature of the crimes and the investigations take the books away from the light and fun. The series is a good choice for readers looking for a solid mystery that's a bit on the hard side. To Darkness and to Death is not the strongest entry of the four I've read, but I can still recommend it.
I listened to the audio version read by Suzanne Toren, who does a nice job with Clare's soft southern accent and the sharper inflections of the Millers Kill natives.
Julia Spencer-Fleming has a website where you can learn more about the author and her books, including the back story of the series.
To Darkness and to Death at Amazon
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Published by St. Martin's Press, 2006
Challenges: RIP, Clear off Your Shelves, 999, 100+
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)