It’s a Mystery: All Mortal Flesh, by Julia Spencer-Fleming

All Mortal Flesh ( A Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery, #5)Human error

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Reverend Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne have fallen in love against the better judgment and best efforts of both of them. They’ve vowed to do the right thing by keeping their distance from each other, but Clare’s had her hand slapped by her bishop. All of her good intentions go up in smoke, however, when Russ’ wife is murdered and he’s the prime suspect.

This book plays out on a couple of levels. There’s the murder investigation, of course, but underlying that plot are the struggles with which Clare grapples regarding her vocation, and the marital tensions that had plagued the Van Alstynes and his guilt about his actions. His wife has also been unfaithful, more than once, but somehow her sins don’t seem to count as much as his. As for Clare, she can’t restrain herself from becoming involved in community problems that, as her new deacon is fond of warning her, have little to do with her pastoral obligations. Soon Clare herself comes under suspicion.

There’s plenty of tension and plenty of ethical dilemmas, along with some clever twists and unexpected crises. The climactic scene is a bit overwrought, especially in view of the restraint that admirably characterizes the rest of the novel. But as the dust settles, it’s clear that both Russ and Clare have some tough decisions to make about their respective futures.

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