The Seven-Year Itch…for the Next Julia Spencer-Fleming Book

Julia Spencer-Fleming started the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series in 2002, and the eighth book came out in 2013. I read them all, and eagerly awaited the next one…which came out seven years later in 2020! Hid From Our Eyes was worth the wait.

The last installment, Through the Evil Days, was not my favorite, but overall this series has been so good that I was still impatient for the next one. In that one, multiple dramas involving the main characters (Episcopal priest Clare, her husband and police chief Russ, and two of the other police officers) dominated the story, and the plot of the mystery itself seemed weak.

But Spencer-Fleming created one of the best mysteries I’ve read in Hid From Our Eyes. It jumps between startlingly similar murders committed in the 1950s, 1970s, and the present day–spaced far enough apart that it’s hard to imagine there is one killer, and, for various reasons, unlikely to involve a copycat. And there is almost no evidence to go on. The reader sees the evidence unfold as the police do–this is not a book where something is hidden from the reader until rabbit is pulled out of the hat at the end; you feel like you’re there with the police trying to track down any hint of what happened. I had a hard time putting this down and read it in two long stretches because I couldn’t wait to see how the crimes tied together and how it all turned out. Although it involves three murders, there is almost no violence in the book, so this should be fine if you’re squeamish or easily freaked out.

Unlike the previous book in the series, the through-plots involving the main characters are neatly woven into the mystery instead of taking over. Russ found the body in the 1970s murder, when he was a kid just back from Vietnam. Through these flashbacks, Spencer-Fleming really develops Russ’s character even more than in the earlier installments, but in a way that seems natural.

After a seven-year delay between books eight and nine, I wondered if this would be the end of the series. This book ends with some cliffhangers for the personal lives of Clare, Russ, and Hadley (one of the other police officers), so it looks like I can look forward to more!

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