All Mortal Flesh is the fifth entry in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. This review assumes you've read the previous novels, but includes no spoilers for this one.
Clare and Russ have pretended that their attraction to each other is simply related to their jobs: They both take care of people--she as priest and he as police chief. Or maybe they like to talk because they are both ex-military. Or maybe it's love. Whatever their relationship, it's no one's business . . . except maybe Linda Van Alstyne's, Russ's wife.
The gossipmongers in Millers Kill, New York, never had it so good. The hot story is Linda threw her husband out of the house, and Russ has moved in with his mother. When a woman is found murdered in the Van Alstynes' kitchen, the town, the parish, and the state police figure they can name the murderer. The only problem is, they all have a different theory.
Julia Spencer-Fleming takes her series into new territory with All Mortal Flesh. Although the premise seems familiar, Spencer-Fleming's handling of it is anything but. At the heart of this complex novel is, of course, the murder. But the solving of this case is colored by small-town gossip, and Clare and Russ's friends and colleagues are not deaf to the rumors.
Clearly, Russ and Clare's relationship could not have continued as it was, and after the events in All Mortal Flesh, it certainly will be forced in a new direction. The emotional breadth and depth of the novel draw us in, and it is of no consequence that some of us may suspect the ultimate outcome. There is so much going on in this book--murder, relationships, small towns, ethical behavior, job security--yet, Spencer-Fleming masterfully weaves the plot lines, and we can't stop reading.
Fans of the series will not be disappointed by this entry, and it is no surprise that the novel won the 2007 Nero Award and was a finalist for the Agatha Award for best novel, Macavity Award for best novel, and Anthony Award for best mystery.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (BBC Audiobooks America), which was read by Suzanne Toren. As I've said before, I am impressed with the way Toren can move from Clare's light southern accent to the sharper voices of the Millers Kill police force. The end of the audio edition includes an interesting interview with Spencer-Fleming. It was a nice surprise to hear the author talk about her work in general and All Mortal Flesh in particular.
To learn more about Julia Spencer-Fleming and her books and to read a Millers Kill short story, visit her website.
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Published by St. Martins / Minotaur, 2006
Challenges: Cozy Mystery, 100+
Source: Bought copy (see review policy)
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