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Through the Evil Days: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery    by Julia Spencer-Fleming order for
Through the Evil Days
by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2014 (2013)

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries have garnered her a devoted following, with good reason. Her leads make a most unusual couple. Widower Russ Van Alstyne is the police chief in the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, New York. Clare Fergusson is the socially active Episcopal rector at St. Alban's, as well as a National Guard helicopter pilot.

They have recently married and are about to embark on their honeymoon - a week's ice-fishing at a remote lake, in a cottage Van Alstyne hopes to purchase and remodel. Both need time to think. Clare's pregnancy (which clearly began before her marriage and about which Russ is not very happy) has caused the bishop to ask for her resignation. And the Millers Kill town council is seriously considering closing down the police department and having state police take over their responsibilities.

Just before Clare and Russ leave, police investigate a case of arson/murder. The older couple killed were foster parents (he was a retired FBI agent) and small Mikayla, the girl they fostered, is now missing. Her mother is a meth user. Mikayla will not survive without her daily medication.

A subplot follows young Officers Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox. Kevin adores Hadley, who recently moved from California with her two children, but she has rejected his advances. They're assigned to work the case together. As they do, Hadley's ex-husband, Dylan, shows up, looking for a handout and threatening to take the children if Hadley does not comply with his demands.

Russ and Clare reach the cabin as an ice storm of epic proportions hits the region. When Russ learns that Mikayla's dad was seen in the area they're in, he decides to follow up. Soon, he, Clare and State Police Lieutenant Bob Mongue (who drove in to check on their status) are taking turns being hunted and hunting down the bad guys through the frozen woods, a little girl's life on the line.

It's an engrossing thrill ride that ends with Hadley's past revealed and big decisions needed for several characters readers will care about. Definitely one of the better episodes in an excellent series.

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