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All Mortal Flesh (Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries) Hardcover – October 3, 2006

125 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Clare Fergusson, a helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest, and Russ Van Alstyne, police chief of Millers Kills, N.Y., are suffering in the wake of their affair in Anthony-winner Spencer-Fleming's fifth mystery, her most captivating yet (after 2005's To Darkness and to Death). After Russ separates from his wife and Clare's Albany superiors chastise her, the "problem priest" vows never to see Russ again. But when Russ's wife is found murdered in the Van Alstynes' home and the New York State police deem him the prime suspect, Clare risks everything to clear his name. The high-stakes plot evolves seamlessly with totally unexpected twists and turns, culminating in a climax that surpasses the drama of previous outings. Clare and Russ continue to struggle with their feelings and the confines of their respective vocations, while interesting new characters join the familiar residents of Millers Kill. Fans, once they start reading, will hang Do Not Disturb signs on their doors. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Anglican priest Clare Ferguson has become a problem: her relationship with the sheriff of Miller's Kill, Russ van Alstyne, a married man, has become the stuff of gossipmongers and church officials alike. The last thing Clare wants is to lose her parish; the last thing Russ wants is to end his marriage with Linda. Then Linda's disfigured body is discovered in the van Alstyne home, and guess who comes under suspicion? Why was she murdered? The latest entry in Spencer-Fleming's intelligently written series puts the relationship between Clare and Russ on a new track while once again broaching some thoughtful questions about religion, relationships, and morality in the modern world. That's a far cry (and perhaps a pleasant surprise) from what readers will be expecting given the jacket--which would have better suited an old Victoria Holt gothic than this contemporary mystery with ethical underpinnings. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312312644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312312640
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bestselling author JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING is the winner of the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, Dilys, Barry, Nero Wolfe, and Gumshoe Awards, and an Edgar and Romantic Times RC Award finalist. She was born at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, spending most of her childhood on the move as an army brat. She studied acting and history at Ithaca College, and received her J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law. She lives in a 190-year-old farmhouse outside of Portland, Maine, with three children, two dogs, and one husband. Visit her on the Web at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Or, perhaps I should quote Russ and say, "Christ on a crutch!" I just finished "All Mortal Flesh," and I am torn between joy at the prize of another Clare/Russ novel and mourning over what I read. This powerhouse fifth entry in the series about the feisty female Episcopal priest and the married police chief of Miller's Kill unreels developments galore for the star-crossed duo. The earlier books revolved around tragedies befalling other denizens of this small upstate New York town. Clare and Russ got involved by virtue of their professions and untangled the murderous mysteries. But those misadventures didn't directly dive-bomb our very human heroes. "All Mortal Flesh" does. It *is* about them; it strikes at them -- and their sympathetic readers -- mercilessly.

The first half of the novel delivers one tremendous jolt and another nearly as high on the shock Richter scale, but then advances as pretty straightforward procedural narrative -- making one wonder why another 150 pages might be necessary. Never fear. Suddenly, after a beautifully emotional scene in which Russ and Clare call upon the healing impetus of forgiveness, everything turns on its axis and the story is off and running again at full tilt. I shall not give any plot switchbacks away, but suffice it to say that as one nears the last pages, there is a certain expectation of how the book will conclude and where that might leave priest and chief. However, it never does to assume, especially with the consummately talented Spencer-Fleming choreographing the action. I felt drained and grieved after reading the final pages. I can only hope that we have not seen the last of Clare Fergussen and Russ Van Alstyne.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
All Mortal Flesh raises Spencer-Fleming's series to a new level. The plot moves quickly, the pacing is brilliant, characters are 3-dimensional and the environment comes alive. Nearly every page introduces a new element of conflict. Nothing goes right for the main characters. Plot twists aqre surprising but logical and the author plays fair. If you read very carefully, the outcome will not be a total surprise: she plants hints all along the way. At the end, we're left sharing the strong emotions of the main characters.

Clare, returning from a weeklong retreat in the woods,gets an urgent message: Russ's wife is dead and he is a logical suspect. She's already under scrutiny from her bishop, who sends a new deacon to provide a combination of parish resource, baby-sitter and spy. All characters -- especially the women -- have contradictions and quirks that move the story along.

I particularly admire the way Spencer-Fleming presents the agony of Clare and Russ: two people who seem born to be soulmates but separated by Russ's marriage and Clare's priestly role.

I'd like to see more of Clare's background incorporated into her everyday life. Ten years as an Army helicopter pilot would be wonderful preparation for counseling and especially for leadership. At the same time, as other readers have noted, she doesn't seem much of a reader (although we get brief references to Purcell and Elgar music - perfect for an Anglican pastor!). Episcopalians tend to like fairly intellectual clergy. When I've visited Episcopal churches, sermons are filled with references to all sorts of books, articles and ideas, seemingly targeted to parishioners with graduate degrees. It's traditionally an upscale denomination. Would an action-oriented former Army pilot fit in?
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By R. Kyle VINE VOICE on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"In the Bleak Midwinter" thoroughly hooked me on the series. Luckily, I found this book after the fifth volume was out, because I have literally devoured all five books in about a week.

Julia Spencer-Fleming creates compelling characters in Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Anglican Priest, Reverand Clare Fergusson. The pair fall in love in the first book, hopelessly in love--since Russ has been married to a very beautiful woman for the past 25 years.

In this fifth (and hopefully not last) book, Clare and Russ have vowed to stay apart. Clare is under disciplinary action from her archdiocese and gossip in their small NY town is running rampant.

They might have kept that oath to stay apart, save that Linda Van Alstyne's wife is found butchered in their home and of course the Chief is the prime suspect. Clare has to come to help and emotions run wild both wanting to be together and suffering from guilt because of the death.

This description makes the book seem like a romance novel. It's really not---while the characters relationship is key to the plot, the mystery stands above all else and is supported by a strong foundation of secondary plots and characters.

Other reviewers are right. Bring a box of tissue with you when you read this book. It will break your heart.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas H. Griffith on October 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't wept so much while reading a book, ever.

Julia Spencer-Fleming has done it again: written a book that is both a compelling read and with characters that are so real that it is hard to remember they are fictional. I sit and stand in awe of her ability as a writer.

This book is hard to categorize. Its two main characters are: a) the Rev. Clare Fergusson, an Episcopalian priest in a small town in upstate New York. That being said, it could be categorized as an "amateur sleuth" novel. But b) the other character is Russ Van Alystyne, police chief in this same small town. That being said, it could be categorized as a "police procedural" novel. However, the two are very much in love with each other, even though she is single and he is married. Would that make it a "Romantic Suspense" novel? And this time, evidence shows that Russ' wife has been murdered. How does a police chief whose spouse has been murdered avoid being considered a suspect? That would make it a mystery from the perspective of the "wrongly accused." Add to that the fact that Russ is in love with his wife as much as he is with the Rev. Clare. And that his wife is not evil, but just as good as the Rev. Clare. And the fact that Russ and Clare themselves each are human beings who do their best to live moral lives--and each is forced to do something they never would have chosen to do had not circumstances given them no other choice. This brings us into the realm of mythological plotting.

Then, add in the theological overtones of how each character is living out the role of awareness, proclamation, arrest, and crucifixion--each within the realm of their own respective callings--a fact lifted up by the presence of the hymn that gave rise to the title.
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