Review

Out of the Deep I Cry

by Julia Spencer-Fleming



I'm not overly fond of mysteries with religious themes, but I like
this series more and more. It's probably because Clare Fergusson is
believable. While she's an Episcopal priest, she doesn't come to
her vocation straight out of seminary, but with nine years as a
Navy pilot behind her. This is different, and it gives her a
certain toughness and an ability to navigate in the real world,
which sometimes comes in handy. While her preference is for the
role her vocation has given her, her knowledge of search and
rescue, survival skills, flying and physical tasks are useful in
her life.

And another thing I like from this worldly priest: Clare flirts.
She knows there are boundaries about behaving appropriately but
she's not uptight, nor is she without life experience. This might
not be a big deal to some folks, but it makes her more
accessible to me, someone who I might be able to talk with
as opposed to someone who all too often (at least I imagine) is
above all that worldly stuff. Even when the story focuses on the
debates of repairing a leaking church roof instead of funding a
clinic, things don't bog down and the story feels based in reality.
I like this in my mystery fiction.

Now to the story, which is pretty interesting. A doctor,
responsible for a low-income clinic in Millers Kill, has
disappeared. He has been involved in some controversy and the
church may be peripherally involved because of funding issues that
affect the future of both the clinic and the church. And in the way
of many tight-knit communities, issues of the past surface as well.
Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, who grew up in the town, knows more
than he realizes about the history of the Ketchem family, including
Jonathan, who disappeared one day in 1930 never to be seen again, a
history that includes a financial trust left behind and family
tragedies.

Julia Spencer-Fleming writes with seeming ease; the dialogue always
rings true in her books (a major plus for this reader). People
sound real, natural and different from one another. The
setting comes across well and the stories work. I did have a
problem though with a "danger and rescue" situation late in the
book; I thought the author let it go on way too long and was bored
by it, which was supposed to be very tense. But then again, I don't
like car chases in movies either. The switching between past and
present worked smoothly for the most part. On occasion, I had a
little trouble recalling who was who, but it's likely that that is
the fault of this reader, not the writer, as Spencer-Fleming
creates strong individual voices.

This series, only in its third book, is rapidly rising in my
estimation. The setting, people and stories are refreshing (a
little too refreshing at times, brrr, northern New York!) and
Spencer-Fleming invests her characters with personalities, flaws
and realism. (Minor quibble time --- the Miranda decision
had nothing to do with laws regarding search and seizure. Okay, I'm
fine now.) The complications that we saw coming show up here in the
relationship between Clare and Russ, and it's clear that there is
no easy answer or resolution for these two people, who care about
each other but are all too aware of obligations and the growing
attraction between them. Good stuff.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter (roscoe@drizzle.com) on January 14, 2011

Out of the Deep I Cry
by Julia Spencer-Fleming

  • Publication Date: April 26, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312312628
  • ISBN-13: 9780312312626