RogerBW's Blog

All Mortal Flesh, Julia Spencer-Fleming 11 September 2023

2006 mystery (modern police procedural plus amateur), fifth in its series. Van Alstyne the police chief is known to be on the outs with his wife, which makes it awkward when her body is found…

All right, this small town still has a toxic masculinity problem, and if the killer portrayed here isn't quite in keeping with the usual pattern for this specific pathology, well, there are variations. Fair enough. But the mystery is a pretty straightforward one, with very few surprises.

Indeed, I got the feeling that Spencer-Fleming cared more here about the emotional roller-coaster of the principals (as before in this series, van Alstyne is married or at least recently widowed, Ferguson is the local Episcopalian priest, and neither of them really has the willpower to stay away from each other even though they've avoided actually having sex). Here they're constantly being thrown in and out of each other's company and it all feels rather forced.

In particular, the events of the ending don't flow from what's come before; inevitably of course any events in a work of fiction are invented by the author to serve their own ends, but they shouldn't feel as though they are. Fiction that I enjoy makes more sense than real life.

There's a slight moment of culture shock for me when van Alstyne is searching a suspect's house and finds some computers:

They must have been in hibernation mode, because they came on almost instantly. Unfortunately, that was far as he got, because the three screens displayed a password log-on request. Why would a woman living alone keep her computers password protected? Why would she have a three-computer network with instant, always-on access to the Internet?

I knew at least three women in 2006 of whom this would have been true. Two of them were running Linux. And everyone I knew had password protection on their computers…

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Previous in series: To Darkness and to Death | Series: Fergusson-Van Alstyne | Next in series: I Shall Not Want

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