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I Shall Not Want: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery    by Julia Spencer-Fleming order for
I Shall Not Want
by Julia Spencer-Fleming
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Building upon the exquisitely fashioned storylines of the five previous novels in her popular mystery series, the bestselling author Julia Spencer-Fleming takes readers once again to the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill, New York.

In spite of all the harrowing problems that the series protagonists have shared in the past - and there have been plenty - when the action in I Shall Not Want begins, thirty-six year old Clare Fergusson continues as the Episcopal rector at St. Alban's (while also serving in the National Guard as a helicopter pilot in spite of the apparent paradox involved in her service), and fifty year old Army veteran and recent widower Russ Van Alstyne remains the chief of police (even as he haltingly negotiates the rocky road of grief and abstinence from alcohol).

New acquaintances, however, promise to further affect Fergusson's and Van Alstyne's separate lives in surprisingly intense ways: Hadley Knox and her two children have recently arrived from California, and she has successfully landed a job as a new police officer working for Van Alstyne. Described by her co-workers as 'a total babe' with 'perfect skin,' 'huge brown eyes,' and 'round, pouty lips,' Knox - as Van Alstyne will eventually discover - will have an unforeseen impact on life-and-death decisions in the normally quiet and relatively peaceful community. At the same time, Clare meets Sister Lucia, a Roman Catholic nun whose work with migrant farm-workers will draw the impetuous and fearless Episcopal priest (and others) into a tangled web within which paranoia, small-mindedness, and betrayals threaten to turn Millers Kill into a very dangerous place in which to live.

Then, when it becomes apparent that a murderer (and other dangerous characters) may be on the loose in their community, everyone in Millers Kill is increasingly on edge. Violence in its various forms escalates to explosive levels, and Clare and Van Alstyne find themselves drawn closer and closer together - in spite of their deep differences and the overpowering obstacles that have stood in the way of their relationship in the past.

True to form, I Shall Not Want is another first-rate mystery from award-winning author Julia Spencer-Fleming (with the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Dilys, Barry, Nero Wolfe, and Gumshoe awards already to her credit). This finely crafted installment - like the others in the series - is made most noteworthy by the author's strong suit: portraying complex characterizations and intricate relationships.

In closing, here is some humble advice: Readers who haven't read the previous five Fergusson-Van Alstyne mysteries may want to read them in their proper sequence (in order to become more fully acquainted with these fascinating characters) before savoring the best of the bunch, I Shall Not Want. The bottom line, though, is this: read them all! They are great!

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