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To Darkness and to Death (A Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery, #4)
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To Darkness and to Death (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries #4)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,583 ratings  ·  222 reviews
Millicent van der Hoeven has decided to sell her family's Adirondack estate to a nature conservancy. But on the day of the land transfer, her brother frantically calls the police. Millie has disappeared in the cold November forest...

Reverend Clare Fergusson gets an early morning phone call to join the Millers
Kindle Edition, 332 pages
Published (first published 2005)
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Russ: I love you, but we can't do anything about it. I'm married, and you're a priest.

Clare: I know. All we can do is make eyes at each other when we think nobody is looking. It's exciting and frustrating at the same time. But wait! Here we are alone in my living room! Maybe . . . .

Russ: Maybe . . . but no! I can't!

Clare: Whoops! Sorry!

Russ: I still love you, Clare.

Clare: I love you, too.

Russ: OK then. Let's enjoy the limited contact we have while we have it.

Clare: [This relationship is doomed.:
Melissa Proffitt
I'm almost ashamed to admit that there were large sections of this book that I found deeply amusing. The villains did so much scrambling to try to cover up their sins that had that scrambling not resulted in death and battery, it really would have been the stuff of slapstick. I had some trouble with the idea that it all took place over a period of one very long day, just because there was so much activity crammed into it (not even a full 24 hours, even), but when I stopped looking at the timesta ...more
That's a three for the story overall, which I liked a lot less than the earlier books in the series, but it's a three with bonus points galore for the author's timing wrt the Clare-and-Russ story arc.

If you haven't read up to this point in the series, you'll be safe with the following paragraph, and I'll pinpoint where there'll be a degree of spoiling for the slow relationship development but nothing more than what you'd get from the blurb. Proper spoilers will be hidden.

The reason I didn't lik
I am not normally a fast reader. However, I am in danger of a speeding ticket in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. The action at points gets so intense that I can't help but hit soar through the intensity to the other side. Not to say that there is ever quite a lull in the action. Im the culminating action of To Darkness and to Death, I literally felt my pulse quicken. I believe that is a clear indication of a well-written story.

In this latest addition to the seri
To Darkness and to Death starts out with a bang and more potential than the first three I've read in this series. Somewhere, though, the mystery and plot get bogged down and I found myself just wanting it all to wrap up and get on with it.

Spoiler Alert
Though not truly a spoiler I don't want these comments to ruin the story for anyone. One of the things I've always liked about this series is the romantic tension between the two main characters, the Rev and the Sheriff. It's definitely still here
I have enjoyed all of the books in this series, so far, but I found this one to be the most gripping. The overall tone of the book feels a little darker in some ways, and yet some of the plot twists seemed almost farcical. the love affair between Rev. Claire and Russ is becoming more open, too, with a startling declaration at the end of the book. . . .
This one was really tight and fast paced. Took place in 24 hours and it helped that I read it in about the same amount of time. Might be the best of the series so far.
Millicent van der Hoeven has disappeared. And, once again, Millers Kill has welcomed me back.

Reverend Clare was trained in survival skills and becomes part of the search and rescue effort to locate Millie. As a former Army helicopter pilot, Clare's experience is necessary. Hopefully, to find Millie alive.

And police chief Russ Van Alstyne has returned to the scene of a most-likely crime. Aagh! There still is that enormous 'elephant in the room': unbearable sexual tension.

I love the suspense Ms. S
"To Darkness and to Death"....who writes these titles? How about "Slow Motion Train Wreck" or "Tick-Tock" or "Minute by Minute" or best yet "Countdown"--they would be more descriptive if less poetic.

Julia Spencer-Fleming as she deviated from her previous novels in her third, using the flash back, in her fourth deviates yet again, effortlessly employing a minute by minute countdown and multiple POV thriller. By confining all the action to a single 24 hour period, weaving together the tragic thre
This could have been a good book. I was expecting to enjoy a fun, relatively uncomplicated mystery. What I got was a domestic abuse soap opera.

The moral of the story appears to be "under enough pressure, any nice man can be pushed to beat, kidnap, or kill a woman." The first time the author presented a man beating a woman almost to death as an "accident," an "understandable mistake," it was disgusting and disturbing. The second time, when another "nice, normal" man kidnapped another woman, agai
So I started off enjoying this was one less than the others. It's different. It takes place all in one day and there are so many plotlines and point of view characters that I felt like Clare and Russ were barely there--separately or together. And there's so much going on and it's just all about people making the wrong choices and ohhh. That was so hard to read. But I ended up really liking and appreciating it by the end.

(view spoiler)
This one was very different than the usual mystery. It takes place in the town of Miller's Kill, NY in the Adirondack mountain area. The largest landowner family, 3 siblings, are selling their land to a global company. Much of the land will be dedicated to preservation by a local conservancy corporation, but it means the long-established family run logging business will have to close, and the long-established family run pulp and paper mill will go have to sell out. Lots of people out of work whi ...more
Mar 20, 2012 D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of In the Bleak Midwinter
Shelves: thriller, whodunit
this was the weakest of the clare fergusson/russ van alstyne series to date, with an overwrought plot, credulity-straining coincidences, and characters who made bafflingly horrible decisions more because it seemed to serve the plot than to make any actual sense.

even so, the rich partnership between clare and russ deepens beautifully and delicately. clare's iconoclasm chafing against the rigid expectations of the episcopal priesthood is an especially rewarding subplot. and just as spencer-fleming
Getting the 24 television show treatment, the entire book takes place in one day. While some of the plot twists are stretching things a bit far, and there are way too many characters to keep track of, Spencer-Fleming kept me on the edge of my chair with the continuing dance of Russ and Clare. I've got a very very bad feeling about their relationship -- something's going to give and give big. I've been immersed in her books for a few weeks now, devouring each one faster than the previous and I ca ...more
The author does it again, but this time she attacks the story over one day. It works pretty well, although there were many characters and events jammed into the one day. I wonder what the Statistical Abstract would say about all the violence in this small Vermont town? Suspension of disbelief aside, Spencer-Fleming has a way of showing how ordinary people can do extraordinarily bad things when put in situations that are harmful to themselves or their way of life. There were characters who were r ...more
MB (What she read)
Compelling but unpleasant reading due the the plethora of selfish, obsessed, and delusional characters whose actions set off a chain of tragic events like a line of dominos falling.

I no longer have much respect for Clare or Russ; and since there were almost no sympathetic characters in this novel, I did not find this book at all fun to read. I'm starting to feel manipulated as a reader and feel that this author is too gleeful in torturing her characters. (Yes, I know they're not real, but I feel
(2.5 of 5 stars)

This feels like a standalone novella which the publishers pressured Spencer-Fleming into expanding to novel-length and cramming into this series, for reasons I can't even fathom. I can't think of any other reason why Clare and Russ would have so little screentime here, while the vast majority of time is devoted to a bunch of hapless characters bumbling around in the woods. In different hands it might have been a decent murder mystery/comedy - there are so many close shaves and ne
All the action takes place within one single day. Each chapter starts with the time of day. The subplots are so detailed, rich character studies, that it’s easy to forget the missing Millie. Time of day serves as a reminder. It was perhaps meant to create suspense.

The impact of ACC taking over the timber industry is most strongly felt by those losing their own personal businesses and jobs. Chapters deal with the individuals and their reactions. Two men affected by the takeover are so profoundly
This one is about the chaos desperate people can create, and how it is often connected chaos-to-chaos. It's about environment v. economy, about jobs and companies and relationships and how everything is connected, and we can't ever tell what the tipping point will be for any one person.

I liked this--and yet, it kinda depressed me. Also I didn't think there was enough of Russ and Clare, not necessarily together, but them, as people. I think I've been reading too many mysteries too close together.
Katherine Clark
Hmmm. I am conflicted about this book. On the one hand, it kept me up all night (I write this review at 4:12 in the morning), so obviously I found the book interesting enough to keep me reading. The suspense was not only high, it was constant from about 1/4 in until the end. That's highly unusual. The characters, again, were interesting, and Fleming did a good job (mostly) of misdirecting (though I did figure some things out). I like this series, but, despite all the positive I've just said, I d ...more
I continue to be impressed with the complexity and the topics Spencer-Fleming tackles in this series. The action in this novel all takes place within a 21-hour time span, beginning with the 5:45 am call to Clare to join the search and rescue team looking for missing person Millie Vanderhoven. (The problem with the audio, by the way, is I have no idea how to spell the names I hear!) She is one of the heirs of the logging property that is being sold to a local conservancy.
The narrative shifts per
This book was totally gripping. IT was hard to stop reading, and most everything in it was totally unexpected.
This series gets better and better. On to book 5!
#4 in the Reverend Clare Fergusson and Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. I love this series for the humanization of both an Episcopalian priest and a rural sheriff. Their relationship has seemed very real as it has grown through the series. The plot of this entry, however, is a mess and is probably the reason this is the only one of the series 8 entries through 2014 not to have won or been nominated for a literary award.

Reverend Clare Fergusson and Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne profess their love f
Mar 05, 2013 C rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to C by: Mary Ellen
Much better on this one - started off with a kidnapping and once the engine of the train wrecked, all the cars just piled up behind it. Horrible to say, but that was much more fun than the last.

Train wreck 2.0 is the Clare/Russ dynamic. Good lord.
This is the third book that I have read in this series by Spencer-Fleming. The plot for this one was interesting, the confrontation between land conservancy and local industry (logging, mills) along with the impact on people's livelihoods and lives in a small town in the Adirondacks that offers few employment opportunities. I have enjoyed each audiobook in this series less than the previous one. Initially, I viewed the series as "a well-done mysteries" but I now think of it as "enjoyable enterta ...more
The characters continue to develop and the plot had twists and turns that kept me eagerly reading. Mysteries resolved but a bomb dropped on Clare and Russ's relation ship on the last two pages left me feeling What the.........?
Another good one in this series. This story takes place over a 24 hour period (Russ' 50th birthday), which makes for some very page turning suspense. It all begins with a young heiress waking up immobilized with duct tape over her mouth and proceeds to include a wide cast of characters, many with no common sense or consciences, attempting to deal with a large real estate transaction that will affect them all.
Things seem to be coming to a head with Clare and Russ' relationship - it will be inter
This one was a lot better than the last for me. I actually enjoyed the different points of view and was interested in the mystery this time. Normally it can be hard to have so many different views and stories going on, but it was done well and was easy enough to follow. I liked the change of seeing who the bad guys are from the start and it all ended up connecting really well.

Russ and Clare continue to be the best part of the series for me. I can't believe the man won't just divorce his wife al
Rosario (
To Darkness and To Death was my least favourite of the series so far. As in previous books, there are two main elements here. There's a mystery, and there's also the development of the relationship between Clare Fergusson, an Episcopal priest still relatively new to a small town in upstate New York, and Russ Van Alstyne, the chief of police. Over the series so far, Clare and Russ have become good friends, but those feelings have turned into something beyond friendship now. Problem is, Russ is ma ...more
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The Narthex: Discussion 1 2 Apr 11, 2012 12:15AM  
  • In a Dark House (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #10)
  • Southern Discomfort (Deborah Knott Mysteries, #2)
  • Murder in a Mill Town (Gilded Age Mystery, #2)
  • Extracurricular Activities (A Murder 101 Mystery #2)
  • Grave Consequences (An Emma Fielding Mystery #2)
  • The Sugar House (Tess Monaghan #5)
  • Anne Perry's Silent Nights: A Christmas Beginning / A Christmas Grace (Christmas Stories, #5-6)
  • A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #4)
  • Cast A Blue Shadow (Ohio Amish Mystery, #4)
Wednesday, September 7

Work-In-Progress Wednesday at my Reader Space. We're up to the fifth part of the second chapter of my eighth book, which has some numerological meaning, I'm sure.
More about Julia Spencer-Fleming...

Other Books in the Series

Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (8 books)
  • In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1)
  • A Fountain Filled With Blood (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #2)
  • Out of the Deep I Cry (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #3)
  • All Mortal Flesh (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #5)
  • I Shall Not Want (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #6)
  • One Was a Soldier (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #7)
  • Through the Evil Days (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #8)
In the Bleak Midwinter (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #1) I Shall Not Want (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #6) One Was a Soldier (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #7) A Fountain Filled With Blood (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #2) Out of the Deep I Cry (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #3)

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