RogerBW's Blog

A Fountain Filled With Blood, Julia Spencer-Fleming 12 April 2023

2003 mystery. The small New York town of Miller's Kill is seeing gay-bashing incidents which escalate until someone's killed. But how does this tie to rumours of contamination at the site of a new holiday resort?

Spencer-Fleming seems to have set out to be a bit less gritty, and a bit more thrillery, this time round, and for my taste it rather worked. No more "welfare queen" stereotyping, no more long descriptions of what an amazing cook Fergusson is – instead she gets to use her helicopter-flying skills from her Army days.

All right, it's perhaps not much of a mystery: suspect that something might not be exactly as it has clearly been set up to seem, and the alternative explanation clicks very neatly into place. This isn't a tough classic-era puzzle story. But that's OK, because the series plot is about how unhappily-married police chief Van Alstyne and expected-to-be-extra-moral priest Fergusson will negotiate the basic problem that they've fallen in love with each other and the small town keeps throwing them together. (Here they harp a bit on the age difference, but more interesting to me was that Van Alstyne's wife – still almost entirely off-stage here – doesn't take an interest in his police work, as a way of dealing with the stress of having a husband who might be shot any day, while Fergusson has an amateur's enthusiasm for investigation.)

It's all a bit spiky and uncomfortable, and I think that's deliberate. Not a book for everyone, but definitely what I was in the mood for after, alas, giving up on three books in a row.

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Previous in series: In the Bleak Midwinter | Series: Fergusson-Van Alstyne | Next in series: Out of the Deep I Cry

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