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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2003
Despite its title, which was taken from an old hymn by the English poet Thomas Cowper, A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD is neither grisly nor especially violent. This book, the second in a series by new author Julia Spencer-Fleming, is a traditional mystery that is unlikely to offend anyone and quite likely to entertain many.
Clare Fergusson is a former Army helicopter pilot, now an Episcopal priest in the small upstate New York town of Millers Kill. In her late 30s and unmarried, she has in general a healthy, no-nonsense attitude toward life and a particular calling toward her religion, which is also now her livelihood. Her faith is strong but unobtrusive --- there's no proselytizing here. Rather, the author uses the occasional inclusion of a prayer or a bit of ritual to add atmosphere while also providing insight into Clare's character.
Here, as in the first book in the series, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, Clare partners up with Sheriff Russ Van Alstyne to solve a crime into whose path she, literally, stumbles. It seems someone around Millers Kill doesn't like gay men. Two are badly beaten in a manner that suggests a hate crime and then one more is found dead; he's the body Clare stumbles into. There happens to be a connection between the dead man and a young couple whose marriage she is to perform in a couple of weeks, which gives Clare opportunity to learn some things Russ and his deputies might not. Because of her military training and a healthy dose of curiosity --- of the sort that amateur detectives must have or these books would never go anywhere --- Clare doesn't hesitate to learn all she can, though at some cost to herself.
The small-town setting will feel familiar to a large number of readers, regardless of the specific upper New York State locale; there is a sort of comforting togetherness going on. There's a Fourth of July celebration in the park and a town meeting where a new development is opposed on environmental grounds. There's a big old Victorian house on the edge of town that has been turned into a bed and breakfast and is run by a pair of openly gay men who are life-partners. There are summer tourists with their stiff, new city-bought leisure clothes, necessary to the fragile economy but getting in the way. Even the nature of the crimes and their impact on the community seem familiar, especially when Clare proposes to her vestry that their church should show support for the victims of a crime that the older, uptight vestry members would rather pretend had no connection to sexuality.
An interestingly different thread of tension runs through the entire book, in the form of a strong sexual attraction between the priest and the sheriff, who not only is a very married man but also loves his wife --- and they both know it. These two characters are extremely well drawn, real people in a very personal conundrum.
Spencer-Fleming is at her best with action scenes --- most interesting in that she portrays them vividly yet without gratuitous violence. She writes so well that she doesn't need blood and gore to get our attention. In the latter half of the book, there is an extended episode in which Clare uses her helicopter pilot skills, honed during the Gulf War, that will have you breathless as you await the outcome, unable to guess what it will be.
For readers who prefer conventional mysteries --- and for anyone who might like a change of pace from the tougher, darker thrillers --- A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD would be a good choice. Especially since, if you like it, the author's previous novel, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, is now out in paperback.
--- Reviewed by Ava Dianne Day
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 27, 2006
"Fountain" starts with an attack on a gay physician and keeps the pace going from there.

The town is in an uproar because PCBs are found at the proposed site of a high dollar resort. Economic advocates want the jobs and tourism the resort will bring. Liberal 'tree huggers' want the resort plans shelved.

Unfortunately, this controversy pits Police Chief Russell Van Alstyne against his 70-ish Mom, Margy. When she lands in jail, it's no surprise to anyone that her son was the one arresting her!

A second attack on a gay man, this one a video store owner, has the Chief now pitted against the story's other protagonist, Anglican Priest Reverand Clare Fergusson.

And if that wasn't enough--the Chief and the Reverand are in love. One big complication is that the chief has a 'beautiful wife of 25 years'. This second novel shows the chink in the chief's marriage. Linda doesn't show much interest in police work--and Russ' Mom doesn't like Linda, either.

Things are definitely going to be interesting when I read the third book--and have no doubt I will!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2003
As both "Publishers Weekly" and "Booklist" indicate, "A Fountain Filled With Blood" is a compelling and exciting follow-up to the author's debut novel, "In a Bleak Midwinter." In this book, Clare Fergusson, an Episcopal priest, and Russ Van Alstyne, the local police chief, must deal with such serious issues as gay-bashing and environmental protection vs. community development to solve the murder of a local developer. The book has realistic characters, a great sense of setting, and some page-turning action. Highly recommended. And when you are finished with the book and want more of Clare and Russ, go back and reread "In the Bleak Midwinter" and see things that you didn't catch the first time around. Can't wait until the next installment.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2003
Many times an author's second book is not quite as good as the first one, but this one is better. Fleming seems to be settling into her setting and characters, and does a fine job of maintaining the tension between the protagonists. This is an adult romance that seems entirely believable. Russ is drawn to Clare's vitality and intelligence, but is also a responsible husband in love with his wife. The helicopter incident is well done with what seems to be knowledgeable detail. The bigotry of a ordinarily decent people is handled well. The writer does not beat the drum, but lets us know her stance. (I really dislike writers with an agenda.) I wait for the next one with impatience.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 23, 2004
Spencer-Fleming is, I think, one of those writers who will get better as she continues, not one of the writers who has one good book and then it's all downhill from there. This book had few of the problems that bothered me with the first.
The "detective" of this series is Claire Fergusson, former Navy helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest and living in a resort area in upstate New York. Claire is a brave, gutsy priest -- perhaps too much -- who doesn't back down. She can't help but get involved in a series of attacks when she herself discovers one of the third person to be attacked -- and he's dead. Since all the victims are gay, the murder appears to be a hate crime, but perhaps not -- perhaps there's another explanation for this similarity. Maybe it has something to do with a resort that's being built in the community.
Claire is ably abetted in her detective work by the Chief of Police (Russ Van Alstyne), with whom there is considerable sexual tension. He is, after all, married, and she is, after all, an Episcopal priest. This time around, they are making more of an effort to stay out of too much proximity with each other and any compromising situations. You can't help but wish she's find someone more available and wonder why the author set up such an apparently hopeless situation to begin with (maybe something unfortunate will befall the Chief's wife?).
The plot moves right along -- hardly a dull page in this book -- and although I wasn't particularly surprised at the outcome, it was an entertaining trip to get there. Spencer-FLeming describes location very well, so well that you could imagine being there, but some of the helicopter stuff was a bit too involved for my taste.
I look forward to reading the third book in the series.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2003
Julia Spencer-Fleming has caused me some serious insomnia over the past week, during which I stayed up way too late reading first "In the Bleak Midwinter" followed immediately by "A Fountain Filled with Blood." It has been many a moon since I've encountered characters as interesting as those that people the pages of JSF's books, to say nothing of her nicely polished prose and well-developed plots. The books' greatest strength is the unique (almost-but-not-quite implausible) background of the female protagonist, a former Army helicopter pilot turned Anglican priest assigned to a tiny parish in the Adirondacks. JSF has a good eye for detail - I've done a fair amount of hiking in those mountains and she neatly captures the rocky paths, oppressive humidity, and relentless mosquitoes. I can't speak for the accuracy of her description of flying a helicopter, but in any event the read makes for a wild ride. The attraction between Reverend Clare and the town's police chief is also deftly handled. More, please - and soon!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2010
A very good read. Slowly draws you into the mystery and the lives of the characters. Recommended by a friend, I truly enjoyed this book and all the other books by this author. I'm now waiting, nearly breathlessly, for the publication, Spring 2011, of the next book. Do yourself a favor, start at the beginning of the series and read your way through. Watch the characters grow and feel yourself become involved in that growth. And, then, there's the mysteries ...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
Although I found the gay-bashing theme at first compelling and sympathetic, as I got further into the story the plot took off at the expense of further character development. Clare as a priest who is the pastor of a church faded into the background, getting only superficial attention.

By the end I was exhausted, trying to keep up with the galloping plot. Two irritable details about the Chief, Russ, had me saying out loud to the author, "Please don't mention Russ adjusting his glasses again, and please don't have him saying for the upteenth time, "Excuse my French."

A good idea for a plot, but more character development and slower pacing would help a lot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2010
I have read every one of Julia Spencer-Fleming's books and impatiently await her next thriller!! As I live in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany where these stories take place, it is great fun to be able to visualize the locations and references Julia makes in her stories. I am an Episcopalian and I treasure and relish these books. Julia has a great ability to tell a story and to interweave the mystery and the lives of The Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. I wait and wait for the next book to arrive, then I devour it in hours, and have to wait again for the next delicious story to be printed. Keep up the wonderful sense of excitement, mystery, and love Julia - it is great reading and great writing. Love it!!! Karen Morgan
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2013
I don't know what it is about this series, but I don't have the desire to continue with the stories, but seem to have this incessant desire to read "just one more" to see what develops between the characters.

As was the same with the first story, I felt like it took way to long to get to the heart of the story. I think that once the story finally takes off, that it is good, but that's just not enough to make me love a story. It seems that the author really can write exciting events, but that seems to be it. It seems like she just has a hard time executing it all together.

As for the characters, I find myself dying to know what happens with them, even though I don't care for the innuendo's that are taking place. First of all, how strange is it that an Episcopal Priest is a female who is a former Army helicopter pilot that regularly drinks and drives a Shelby Mustand, but most importantly finds herself more openly attracted to a married man than she should? I myself, don't agree with infidelity, so it's hard to accept the budding relationship between Clair and Russ. I also just find Claire's character unbelievable. I don't have such a problem with Russ as Chief of Police and it's obvious that the attractions are mutual between Russ and Claire but just don't understand it, or my desire to see where it goes.

After reading the first book in the series, I said I would read the second and then decide if I would continue from there! After reading this one I immediately decided that I was not going to continue, however, after reading the description of the third book, I'm going to give this series one last chance!
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