27 December 2008

Review: Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming

This is the third in the Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series by Spencer-Fleming. This review assumes you've read the first two. For just my recommendation, skip to below the asterisks.

Millers Kill, New York, is blessed to have a free clinic to serve the uninsured and economically disadvantaged citizens of the town. Jane Ketchem founded the clinic in memory of her husband, who drove away one March night in 1930, never to be seen again. Although Jonathon Ketchem was eventually declared legally dead, his disappearance remains the only open cold case in Police Chief Van Alstyne's files.

Lacey Ketchem Marshall, the daughter of the late Jane Ketchem, is the sole beneficiary of her mother's trust fund. When the roof of St. Alban's Episcopal Church begins to leak, Lacey tells the Reverend Ferguson that she'd like to pull funds from the clinic to pay for the repairs. Soon thereafter, Dr. Allan Rouse, director of the clinic, goes missing--almost seventy years to the day that Lacey's father was last seen.

Clare and Russ find themselves facing a series of seemingly unrelated mysteries: What really happened to Jonathon? Where did Jane get the money to fund the clinic? What happened to Allan? Meanwhile, as the pair work together to answer these questions, their relationship seems to be taking them into dangerous territory.

* * * * *
This entry in Spencer-Fleming's series takes us back and forth from the hard days of the early Depression to the economics of the twenty-first century. The story is not told in a linear fashion, but bits of history are revealed on an as-needed basis. What could have been a confusing technique is nicely carried off in this novel. Each chapter is headed by a date, comfortably orienting the reader along the time line.

The mysteries in this book are not standard whodunits. Instead, we explore how simple decisions can have unforeseen consequences, even across generations. And the most loving and protective parents cannot know how their choices will effect the lives of their children; sometimes the results of such choices are haunting.

Out of the Deep I Cry is a strong entry in Spencer-Fleming's series, although it is less action packed than the first two books and takes a bit of time to develop. However, the principal theme is examined from a number of angles and leaves readers asking themselves some hard questions. The main characters continue to grow and are not freed from pondering similar difficult issues. Fans of the series will not be disappointed.

The unabridged audio was read by Suzanne Toren, whose inflections and timing were perfect for the novel.

Published by St. Martin's Press, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780312988883
Rating: B+


Anonymous,  12/27/08, 10:20 AM  

Never read this author. It does sound good.

John Mutford 12/27/08, 11:06 AM  

Not that I've read many mysteries, but it doesn't sound like the typical structure or simple, straightforward narrative. Glad to hear she pulls it off.

Robin M 12/27/08, 11:40 AM  

Hmm! Sounds interesting. I've never read anything by her. Will have to check it out.


Lissa 12/27/08, 12:09 PM  

I read the second one, All Mortal Flesh this past fall and loved it (so much so, other people got it for christmas). I always intended to go back and read the first. Now that I know she is going to continue the series, I'll have to motivate and do that so I can continue. Thanks for the great review. =D

Cathy 12/27/08, 1:07 PM  

People in that mystery group I belong to keep mentioning Julia S-F, but this is the first time I've come across a review of one of her books. Sounds like yet another author to add to Ye Olde Wish List!

Nely 12/27/08, 4:30 PM  

This sounds good. I'll have to look into this series.

Anonymous,  12/29/08, 2:44 PM  

Excellent review. I've never read any of her work, so I would want to start at the beginning.

Anonymous,  12/29/08, 9:15 PM  

Sounds like a good one! St. Martin's Press was giving out free eBooks by this author earlier this year. I can't remember the titles though.

Beth F 12/30/08, 7:24 AM  

Thanks everyone for commenting.

The series is a bit different from others, and the main characters are more complex than most cozy mysteries. I recommend starting from the beginning.

If you can snag a free eBook, I'd go for it; these are also good on audio.

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