Julia Spencer-Fleming makes a triumphant return to her series about Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and her police chief husband, Russ Van Alstyne with “Hid From Our Eyes.”
It’s been seven years since her last novel, but Ms. Spencer-Fleming seamlessly continues her series, smoothly illustrating her characters’ nuances with a fresh look at them in an engrossing plot that reaches from contemporary times to past generations.
Ms. Spencer-Fleming’s ninth novel continues a series hallmark: uncompromisingly melding her characters’ personal and professional concerns into tight plots. Clare, a former soldier, continues her adjustment to civilian life in the Adirondacks. Her efforts to adhere to her faith while also trying to overcome her failings are not always successful, but continue the theme of a person making peace with themselves as they accept their flaws. Real people inhabit Spencer-Fleming novels with believable problems.
“Hid From Our Eyes” picks up a couple of months after the events of 2013’s “Through the Evil Days,” Ms. Spencer-Fleming’s last novel. Clare and Russ are now parents, doting on their 4-month-old son, Ethan. They juggle child-care duties and exhaustion while Clare tries to maintain her sobriety. A movement to replace the small Millers Kill police department with the state police has Russ and his officers on edge, fearing they will lose their jobs.
Then the body of a well-dressed young woman with no obvious sign of foul play is found in the middle of an out-of-the-way road.
The crime scene is eerily reminiscent of a similar one from the summer of 1972. Russ has never forgotten that death because he found the woman’s body and was considered a person of interest at the time. Russ had just returned — adrift, angry and antisocial — to his hometown after a tour in Vietnam. That killing was never solved nor was, as Russ and his officers discover, the murder of another young woman whose body was found the same way in 1952.
The superb “Hid From Our Eyes” features believable twists that explore the complicated characters. The turning point in Russ’ life as he progressed from a young man with no future to becoming a perceptive cop adds an extra layer to understanding this character. Clare’s adjustment to motherhood and her constant struggle with addiction is well explored.
Ms. Spencer-Fleming put her series on hiatus as she dealt with personal issues. The return of Clare and Russ is most welcome with “Hid From Our Eyes,” an outstanding addition to this solid series.
• Oline H. Cogdill is a writer for Associated Press.
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HID FROM OUR EYES: A CLARE FERGUSSON/RUSS VAN ALSTYNE MYSTERY
By Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur, $27.99, 352 pages
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