It was a bit of a challenge for me to read In the Bleak Midwinter–in no small part because I didn’t much expect to go for a plot involving a female Episcopalian priest who falls in love with a married man. And yet, although I had additional challenges coming in from reading this thing in ebook form (and therefore in scattered bits and pieces on my computer since I have no reading device), I found that I did in fact rather like the story.
Clare is certainly not the stereotypical image one might bring to mind for a priest, even a female one. I quite liked that she was very down-to-earth, and that her faith was not particularly in-your-face; it was important to her, clearly, and that was subtly and nicely portrayed to the reader. It was also quite cool that she had military background, and that was she was a former pilot before feeling called to join the church. The beginnings of her relationship to Russ, the sheriff of the small town where she’s come to live, is the driving force of this novel, and I found it less angstful than I was fearing. Rather, it seemed a natural depiction of two people who initially get along very well together under crisis circumstances, and who only realize later on that attraction is beginning to sneak up on them.
The crime that Russ must investigate, and on which Clare joins him, is the abandonment of a baby and the later murder of the baby’s mother. It’s fairly low-key stuff for a murder mystery, yet entirely appropriate for the small town setting. Spencer-Fleming does a decent job portraying the impact of the abandonment and murder on the lives of the connected parties–and, I was pleased to note that the ultimate culprit was neither immediately obvious nor brought totally out of left field.
This story was interesting enough that I’ll probably be checking out book 2, since I acquired a free ebook copy of that as well. Four stars.