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One horrible murder. Two people destined for love or tragedy. Emotions explode in the novel Julia Spencer-Fleming's readers have been clamoring for.   Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne's first encounter with Clare Fergusson was in the hospital emergency room on a freezing December night. A newborn infant had been abandoned on the town's Episcopal church steps. If Russ had known One horrible murder. Two people destined for love or tragedy. Emotions explode in the novel Julia Spencer-Fleming's readers have been clamoring for.   Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne's first encounter with Clare Fergusson was in the hospital emergency room on a freezing December night. A newborn infant had been abandoned on the town's Episcopal church steps. If Russ had known that the church had a new priest, he certainly would never have guessed that it would be a woman. Not a woman like Clare. That night in the hospital was the beginning of an attraction so fierce, so forbidden, that the only thing that could keep them safe from compromising their every belief was distance---but in a small town like Millers Kill, distance is hard to find. Russ Van Alstyne figures his wife kicking him out of their house is nobody's business but his own. Until a neighbor pays a friendly visit to Linda Van Alstyne ­and finds the woman's body, gruesomely butchered, on the kitchen floor. To the state police, it's an open-and-shut case of a disaffected husband, silencing first his wife, then the murder investigation he controls. To the townspeople, it's proof that the whispered gossip about the police chief and the priest was true. To the powers-that-be in the church hierarchy, it's a chance to control their wayward cleric once and for all.   Obsession. Lies. Nothing is as it seems in Millers Kill, where betrayal twists old friendships and evil waits inside quaint white clapboard farmhouses.


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One horrible murder. Two people destined for love or tragedy. Emotions explode in the novel Julia Spencer-Fleming's readers have been clamoring for.   Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne's first encounter with Clare Fergusson was in the hospital emergency room on a freezing December night. A newborn infant had been abandoned on the town's Episcopal church steps. If Russ had known One horrible murder. Two people destined for love or tragedy. Emotions explode in the novel Julia Spencer-Fleming's readers have been clamoring for.   Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne's first encounter with Clare Fergusson was in the hospital emergency room on a freezing December night. A newborn infant had been abandoned on the town's Episcopal church steps. If Russ had known that the church had a new priest, he certainly would never have guessed that it would be a woman. Not a woman like Clare. That night in the hospital was the beginning of an attraction so fierce, so forbidden, that the only thing that could keep them safe from compromising their every belief was distance---but in a small town like Millers Kill, distance is hard to find. Russ Van Alstyne figures his wife kicking him out of their house is nobody's business but his own. Until a neighbor pays a friendly visit to Linda Van Alstyne ­and finds the woman's body, gruesomely butchered, on the kitchen floor. To the state police, it's an open-and-shut case of a disaffected husband, silencing first his wife, then the murder investigation he controls. To the townspeople, it's proof that the whispered gossip about the police chief and the priest was true. To the powers-that-be in the church hierarchy, it's a chance to control their wayward cleric once and for all.   Obsession. Lies. Nothing is as it seems in Millers Kill, where betrayal twists old friendships and evil waits inside quaint white clapboard farmhouses.

30 review for All Mortal Flesh

  1. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    Wow, what an emotional roller coaster! By one third of the way through the novel and found myself weeping, moved by the suffering of a fictional character, Russ Van Alstyne. Not to mention Clare Fergusson. Two people trying to do what society deems to be the right thing and being stymied at every turn. Spencer-Fleming is merciless in her tormenting of these two characters. They are thrown from one desperate choice to the next with barely a chance to catch their breath. Plus they have to deal wit Wow, what an emotional roller coaster! By one third of the way through the novel and found myself weeping, moved by the suffering of a fictional character, Russ Van Alstyne. Not to mention Clare Fergusson. Two people trying to do what society deems to be the right thing and being stymied at every turn. Spencer-Fleming is merciless in her tormenting of these two characters. They are thrown from one desperate choice to the next with barely a chance to catch their breath. Plus they have to deal with backstabbing colleagues, small town gossip gone wild, work situations out of control, and, of course, murder. All the while knowing that they have determined to part despite loving each other powerfully. So many people would just follow the path of least resistance, but Russ and Clare hold themselves to a higher standard. The end of the novel is not what I would call satisfying--it's what had to happen, but it's not what my heart called out for. The only reason I didn't throw the book across the room (aside from it being a library book) is that I know there are more books in the series, so this can't (just can't) be the end. And I can't for the life of me figure out where things go from here. How can the author possibly bring these two lost souls back together again? My only comfort at this point is knowing there are four, count ‘em four, more installments to this story. Can Russ and Clare each forgive themselves? Can they forgive each other? Should they? I'm having to resist the urge to search for the next book right away. I know I have other reading plans during August, but my impulse is to throw plans to the wind! However, I know that anticipation of a much desired book is just as good as reading it! I will give myself time to anticipate the next volume. Cross posted at my blog: https://wanda-thenextfifty.blogspot.c...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    This is a Mystery Romance, and this is the 5th book in the Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries series. I love the characters in this book, and the mystery parts of this book was really good. I really loved reading this book, but the ending was just ok not great. I won a paperback copy of this book from a goodreads giveaway. (*)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Red

    Arrrrgh. This book really frustrated me. I've been on a roll with this series this week, reading 4 of the books in the series. (Fun things to do while home, sick.) I was so angry last night when I finished reading this one, I wasn't going to read the latest book. For the first time, the entire story-line was dark. The only scene that showed Clare & Russ in their familiar relationship was told in flashback during one of the bleakest parts of the story. I didn't like how this one ended. REALLY didn Arrrrgh. This book really frustrated me. I've been on a roll with this series this week, reading 4 of the books in the series. (Fun things to do while home, sick.) I was so angry last night when I finished reading this one, I wasn't going to read the latest book. For the first time, the entire story-line was dark. The only scene that showed Clare & Russ in their familiar relationship was told in flashback during one of the bleakest parts of the story. I didn't like how this one ended. REALLY didn't like it. Didn't like the choice that was foisted off on Clare. Didn't like Russ's reaction 15 minutes later down the road. Didn't like any of the events depicted in the epilogue. I'm not that much of a mystery fan. I like this series because of the wonderful relationship between Reverend Clare and police chief Russ. That's what keeps me coming back for more, and that's what was sadly lacking (except the flashback) in this installment. I really, really didn't like the way that Clare & Russ were Off/On/Off etc. It seemed that when events occured so they could interact more, they cut each other off, and when events changed and they should have stayed away from each other they didn't. Then another event and they should have been together and *now* they (Russ) decides they can't even speak to each other? I felt extremely manipulated and FRUSTRATED and angry. And really upset. Decided I was NOT going to buy the last book, even in Kindle form. (Pouting) Today broke down and went to the library and checked out the last book. If the relationship doesn't get better in that book, I'm done. EDIT 2/2021: 10 years down the road, and this series is definitely worth reading all the way through. On a reread, I might be tempted to skip #5, but I would continue reading the series to the very last word!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    I think it's clear at this point in the series that the mystery is always going to come second to the always-nearly-doomed relationship between Clare and Russ. Russ and the Miller's Kill PD miss a lot of things that should have been obvious (view spoiler)[Come ON, people, the woman is completely unrecognizable, you really ought to take the simple step of verifying that it's Linda! (hide spoiler)] but I don't care, because this book is simply brutal in the way it tears our favorite protagonists i I think it's clear at this point in the series that the mystery is always going to come second to the always-nearly-doomed relationship between Clare and Russ. Russ and the Miller's Kill PD miss a lot of things that should have been obvious (view spoiler)[Come ON, people, the woman is completely unrecognizable, you really ought to take the simple step of verifying that it's Linda! (hide spoiler)] but I don't care, because this book is simply brutal in the way it tears our favorite protagonists into tiny little pieces and then stomps on them. It was extremely hard to read, and I had to go immediately to I Shall Not Want because I was so emotionally drained by the experience. Three stars, mainly because I did feel emotionally drained, and felt that Spencer-Fleming was deliberately upping the stakes, particularly with that ending, and that left me feeling annoyed on top of being emotionally drained. The rest, in spoilers, because I can't keep track anymore: (view spoiler)[ Okay, I think I accidentally read somewhere that Linda wasn't actually dead, because I never believed it. But that knowledge kept me aware of all the assumptions the police and associated departments were making--natural ones, but really, I can't believe the two women were so very alike that no one noticed the difference. It was a cheap trick to have the ME refuse to let Russ see the body, because he would have definitely known that wasn't his wife of twenty-five years. But let's address the ending for a bit. Linda is clearly selfish and shallow and Russ is an idiot for letting her blame him for everything that's gone wrong in their marriage. His guilt over his love for Clare puts that into perspective, but there's the whole issue of Linda having slept with Lyle. Russ has been emotionally unfaithful, but Linda actually crossed the line--and yet Russ is still made to feel like the guiltier party when he throws her infidelity in her stupid beautiful face. I was actually shocked at her death, because I'd thought Spencer-Fleming was going to string us along for a while more. While I'm glad Russ is finally free, I hate that it turned him, however briefly, into someone who could turn his back on the woman he loves when she needs him, rejecting whatever comfort she might be able to give him. It's inappropriate guilt and I just felt so awful for both of them. Hence going immediately to the next book. (hide spoiler)] I suppose when I look back on this with the distance of one or two more books, I might change my mind about the rating. But ultimately this felt a little more manipulative than the other books have, and it's only my abiding love for Clare and Russ that keeps me from thinking of it as melodrama.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hallie

    This is going to be one of the odder reviews, of a lifetime of frequent odd reactions to books. It'll be safe to read until I start using ALL the spoilers. The reason it's odd is that I'm only giving it a 4 star rating as a consequence of having also read the next book in the series - if I'd rated it after finishing, or anytime during the not-great night's sleep that followed, I would have rated a lot lower. I was angry. Not just irritated that the story had taken a twist I didn't like, or annoye This is going to be one of the odder reviews, of a lifetime of frequent odd reactions to books. It'll be safe to read until I start using ALL the spoilers. The reason it's odd is that I'm only giving it a 4 star rating as a consequence of having also read the next book in the series - if I'd rated it after finishing, or anytime during the not-great night's sleep that followed, I would have rated a lot lower. I was angry. Not just irritated that the story had taken a twist I didn't like, or annoyed at the tragedy of it all being dragged out: proper angry. Angry with Russ, with Linda, with -- well, with the author, obviously, but more with the characters. If I'd read this book when it was just published and there'd been a year or so to wait for the next, it might well have been the end of it for me and the series. Happily I already had book 6 (pause for me to call down more blessings upon the virtual head of Better World Books, and their charitable literacy programmes and their saving of discarded library books and their free international shipping). One factor that pushed me towards starting it was that I'd noticed something I'd written about that had felt off to me in book 4 was brought up again in book 5 and seen to have been intentionally indicating a character's lack of clear thinking. So I wasn't as surprised as I'd otherwise have been to find it was only page 23 (of book 6) that brought everything I'd been feeling (about one of my furious IT'S NOT FAIRs in book 5) and beautifully laid it out. This is of course a complete and utter spoiler, but I'm going to put in the end of the quote, which isn't spoilery, and would have caused me to run to update with "Willard Aberforth is my new favourite", had I been willing to put the book down for long enough. Safe quote: "Oh, my dear Ms. Fergusson." She turned around at that. "You are a very good priest in many ways. And someday, if your self-awareness approaches half your awareness of others, you might be an extraordinary priest." He folded his hands. "I do not think that day will be today, however." Not only is Willard Aberforth a favourite for saying what I'd been so wanting to say, he's a lovely example of how good this author is at taking characters from unpromising starts to show how true compassion can co-exist with apparent close-mindedness. He's almost an Anglican one-man Spanish Inquisition on his arrival, and he's a valued spiritual advisor and friend (with whom Clare shares almost no *opinions*) not that long after. Very well done. All Mortal Flesh also still contained some of the little snarky bits that I found so delightful in earlier books, though they were scattered a little more sparsely, for obvious reasons. I especially liked the bits about Elizabeth de Groot. Clare asks Aberforth what she's like, and he says, "'An elegant lady. Dignified. She has a lovely sense of tradition.' Clare translated that to mean so high church she makes the archbishop of Canterbury look like a guitar-strumming folksinger." When Elizabeth arrives in St. Alban's, petite, with a perfect "ash blond mane" and wearing "a little black suit with her collar that looked like Chanel, if Chanel made clerical garb", causing Clare to feel messy, uncouth, and gawky, we get this lovely line: "'I'm Elizabeth de Groot.' The woman smiled pleasantly. No wonder. It was undoubtedly a wonderful thing to be Elizabeth de Groot." Right then, a few snarls behind a cut, and there'll be a review of book 6 soon. Soonish, maybe. (I have been reading only books with huge emotional impact lately, apparently, and have still to write up my reread of Crown & Court Duel and my final of Zack Emerson's Echo Company books, Stand Down.) (view spoiler)[ I HATED that Russ reacted the way he did. Even cutting him a massive amount of slack for what he was going through, he - just, no. Everything Aberforth said about what Russ had done, in trying to get Clare to admit that she was angry, all spot on. And Linda? I hadn't liked the little we'd got of her before, though it was filtered through, of course, but she was gradually revealed as a pretty horrible person. a) Her utter, unshakeable self-righteousness about Russ's betrayal (which it was), in the face of her having had an affair with Lyle - LYLE - made me sick. b) when she reappeared (I'd been pretty certain that what had looked as if it might just be Russ in denial was going to be true and she would be alive) the reason she hadn't told her sister about disappearing off the grid (at a time she knew her sister was worrying about her) was that she didn't want to have to bring her sister along on her little jaunt. Nice. Unselfish and considerate. Russ has told her that a woman who looked like her was found dead in their house, causing everyone to believe that she was dead and her response was "If this helps us realise what we mean to each other, then it will have all been worth it, huh?" As Russ thinks, "Not to Audrey Keane." And back to the "I always put our marriage first, I always put myself and my needs second - now it's time for you to do the same" line, with him supposed to be wrong for cracking and asking her if that's what she'd been doing when she slept with Lyle. Of course having Linda really die right after was a right authorial punch in the head to Russ, but given the apparent impossibility of his ever recovering any degree of emotional stability, it was as much of a punch to the reader. Nothing like being quite so susceptible to manipulation-by-author, eh? I was powerless, and that ending: "And she was lost again." nearly did me in. Clare is very human, and very apt to make mistakes, but that was just too sad. (hide spoiler)]

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The opening pages of All Mortal Flesh, the fifth in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, finds Rev Clare on retreat. If I were her adviser this is exactly what I would have suggested after reading the prior book in the series. If you've been following my reviews you'll recall that though there's a part of me that craves the tension between the characters there's another part of me that just wants to say grow up. There's definitely a lot of vacillating this outing about this very issue The opening pages of All Mortal Flesh, the fifth in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, finds Rev Clare on retreat. If I were her adviser this is exactly what I would have suggested after reading the prior book in the series. If you've been following my reviews you'll recall that though there's a part of me that craves the tension between the characters there's another part of me that just wants to say grow up. There's definitely a lot of vacillating this outing about this very issue. To Darkness And To Death ended with Russ stating that he was going to tell his wife of many years that he was in love with Clare. It should surprise no one, especially Russ that she has booted him out of their home. Though they are seeing a marriage counselor it is still up in the air where their marriage is headed. Now take a look at the priest. She knows its wrong but she is having difficulty giving Russ up. She's feeling guilty on many levels. She really has nothing against Linda but... Many in her congregation know what's going on and the circle beyond this, community members, and certainly almost everyone in the police department are speculating about the affair, consummated or not. And yet some secrets do remain. "It is a cliche that there are no secrets in a small town. It is also false." This short opening quickly turns into a mess. To tell you more would require lots of spoilers. I'd prefer you read for yourself. Let's just say the proverbial sh*t hits the fan in so many ways that you wonder if anything can end well. Some of the plot line was easy to guess, other parts surprised me. Though I did find some things a bit over the top or improbable, these elements did not ruin the story. Spencer-Fleming explains Russ's take on the seriousness of events this way "There are moments in life that are between the blow and the pain, between the phone ringing and the answer, between the misstep and the fall. One that comes to everyone is a moment, or three, or five, between sleeping and waking, when the past has not yet been re-created out of memory and the present has made no impression. It is a moment of great mercy; disorienting, like all brushes with grace, but a gift nonetheless." I love how the title opens the book: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence --Liturgy of St. James, para. by Gerard Moultrie The Hymnal, 1982, The Church Publishing Company You can read it all here http://www.hymnary.org/text/let_all_m.... The dedication to booksellers everywhere was an especially nice gesture. Considering all I've said and how much I believe in my own marriage vows, you'll probably be a bit surprised that yes, I did really like this entry to the series. I honestly can't wait to see what happens next.

  7. 5 out of 5

    erforscherin

    (2.5 of 5 stars) Hope you like whiplash, because you'll be feeling a lot of it in this one! I don't even know where to start with describing this one, other than that it's pretty clear that we have now officially slid from "okaaaay... semi-plausible, I guess I'll roll with it" to "total soap opera" territory. (view spoiler)[First, let's just take a moment to soak in the sheer wackiness of the main plot line. Hi, Russ, your wife is dead! No, wait, it was a case of mistaken identity(?!?) and she's a (2.5 of 5 stars) Hope you like whiplash, because you'll be feeling a lot of it in this one! I don't even know where to start with describing this one, other than that it's pretty clear that we have now officially slid from "okaaaay... semi-plausible, I guess I'll roll with it" to "total soap opera" territory. (view spoiler)[First, let's just take a moment to soak in the sheer wackiness of the main plot line. Hi, Russ, your wife is dead! No, wait, it was a case of mistaken identity(?!?) and she's actually alive! No, wait, she's... alive but probably going to divorce your horrible ass anyway, no happy reunion for you. Oh yes, and she cheated on you. Repeatedly, for years, with your second-in-command. Is still cheating on you, probably. Oops, now she's dead again, for real this time. And it might be your fault? At this point I have given up any hope of rooting for anybody in this series - I am reading solely out of morbid curiosity. What I would have liked to see is exactly the opposite story. One where Clare realizes that neither Russ or Hugh are good matches, mans up and moves out of town, and creates a new life for herself elsewhere; where Russ realizes this will never work either and puts in the hard work to rebuild his marriage and remember why he fell in love with his wife the first time; where Linda is an actual character on-screen, with wants and desires all her own -- that don't include cheating on her husband just so the plot can have a convenient scapegoat and justification for Russ's own (horrid) behavior. I want a story where all parties can be mature adults and have difficult discussions instead of trading longing glances, and recognize when Necessity Exists and take the right steps, even if they're not fun or easy. Unfortunately, this is not that book. This series will never be that series, not even close. It's just a soap opera, and always will be. (hide spoiler)]

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike Finn

    'All Mortal Flesh' is book five in this crime series about a woman priest and the Chief of Police of a small town of Millers Kill in the Adirondack mountains in New York The two of them keep being thrown together as they try to sort out various violent deaths in the town. Book by book, the attraction between them has grown, fed partly by denial and mostly by a common urge to act and to protect. BUT ...the Police Chief is married. To a very nice, very attractive woman (it annoys me a little that 'All Mortal Flesh' is book five in this crime series about a woman priest and the Chief of Police of a small town of Millers Kill in the Adirondack mountains in New York The two of them keep being thrown together as they try to sort out various violent deaths in the town. Book by book, the attraction between them has grown, fed partly by denial and mostly by a common urge to act and to protect. BUT ...the Police Chief is married. To a very nice, very attractive woman (it annoys me a little that it matters whether she's attractive - it shouldn't pile on the angst - she's his wife - that should be enough) that he dragged to this small town when he retired from the Army and with whom he has not been able to have children with. His wife, he believes, is a woman that he still loves. ...the Priest is deeply committed to her faith and her parish and knows that she can't honour those things AND keep feeding her attraction to the Police Chief. By the violent and traumatic end of the fourth book, aptly titled ‘To Darkness And To Death’, both of them have realised that, although they haven't had sex, they have had an affair in their hearts, with all the betrayals that that involves. I'd wondered how the fifth book would cope with this. I had expected another mystery during which the two of them would go through the slow torture of deciding what to do, even though there are no good choices but Julia Spencer-Fleming is braver than me and she's given the fifth book an explosive start. The book opens with the Priest having gone on a week's retreat, during which she's reached a conclusion and now expects never to see the Police Chief again. THEN I find that the Police Chief's wife has thrown him out and shared the reasons with her best friend. THEN her best friend finds the Police Chief's wife murdered. And all of that was in the first five per cent of the book. I'd clearly underestimated how much pain Julia Spencer-Fleming is willing to put her characters through. This was an edge-of-the-seat -how-can-THIS-have-gotten-worse sort of book. This book has claws and it slipped them into my imagination the way a cat will hook your flesh if you show it too much trust. I needed to know what happened next, not just because the plot was full of surprises that kept me guessing about who had done what to whom, or because the way the story cut back and forth between Clare and Russ kept the tension ramped up but because I needed to see a way through the grief. 'All Mortal Flesh' is soaked in grief, real messy, ugly, I-want-to-look-away-from-this-grief, not the romantic don't-you-just-want-to-hug-him/her kind. Neither Clare nor Russ let themselves off the hook for their actions or the consequences of their actions. Both are determined to do the right thing. It's painful to watch but it feels true. The language of the book is one of the things that make it so powerful. Take this description that opens the chapter in which Russ appears for the first time in this book: There are moments in life that are between: between the blow and the pain, between the phone ringing and the answer, between the misstep and the fall. One that comes to everyone is a moment, or three, or five, between sleeping and waking, when the past has not yet been re-created out of memory and the present has made no impression. It is a moment of great mercy; disorienting, like all brushes with grace, but a gift nonetheless. 'when the past has not yet been re-created out of memory and the present has made no impression' - I love that. Then there's this description of Clare in a moment when she is guilty entertaining the hope that she and Russ might have a future. I think it captures Clare's values perfectly: But she could not forget Russ’s pain, his poor murdered wife, or the guilt – equal parts sin and complicity – that clung to her like a wet dress. I was very impressed by this instalment of the series and I'll be back for book six, ' I Shall Not Want', shortly.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Avid Series Reader

    All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the 5th book of the Reverend Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne mystery series set in contemporary upstate New York. Reverend Clare Fergusson is still in love with Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, although she has tried to end their relationship, for the sake of their commitments: hers to the church, his to his wife Linda. Russ has told his wife Linda that he cared for Clare, but that he honored and wanted to repair their marriage; Linda insisted on sep All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the 5th book of the Reverend Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne mystery series set in contemporary upstate New York. Reverend Clare Fergusson is still in love with Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, although she has tried to end their relationship, for the sake of their commitments: hers to the church, his to his wife Linda. Russ has told his wife Linda that he cared for Clare, but that he honored and wanted to repair their marriage; Linda insisted on separation. Russ is temporarily rooming with his mother. Out of favor with church higher-ups, Clare goes on a retreat in a remote cabin to reorient her priorities. When she returns to work, she is saddled with a new deacon, Elizabeth de Groot, placed by the bishop. Clare considers her a "baby-sitter" (an irritant) plus Elizabeth is inconveniently nosy about all Clare's actions. When a neighbor finds a dead body at the Alstyne house, a woman brutally beaten, Russ is arrested for murdering his wife. Clare does not believe Russ murdered his wife. She struggles against public opinion in her quest for facts. Against orders, stripped of rank, Russ stubbornly investigates the murder. A rookie detective's wife, nagged by his wife to advance his career, reports to state police that Millers Kill PD is not investigating a likely suspect: Clare. The "staties" send an officer to take charge. She is an obnoxious, politically motivated control freak. She wants absolute obedience to her commands, no questions. She wants evidence found to indict Russ and close the case. Notice: she doesn't want evidence found to find the real killer. As in all the other mysteries in the series, Clare's ability to relate on a personal level with many people, as well as her intuition into character and likely behavior, lead her to the killer. She goes beyond her church responsibilities, unofficially investigating clues that the police consider insignificant. Eventually she finds herself in mortal danger, and must rely on her military training to save herself. Fierce winter weather is absolutely essential to the plot. Key events could not happen without deep snow, continued snowstorms, emergency personnel stretched to cope, snowplowing required. The 'doomed romance' between Clare and Russ, a novelty at the beginning of the series, has become tedious; this installment more melodramatic than most. Alas, the tension is doomed to continue.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wayne Zurl

    ALL MORTAL FLESH by Julia Spencer-Fleming There was a lot to like about this book, but I found more than few things unrealistic and just another part of the template publishers demand, pandering to readers who don’t care much about authenticity in police procedurals. I like both Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, the joint protagonists in the series. Clare is less flawed and more likable, but Russ is a competent cop and both do their thing in an area I know well. In the last episode, Russ decla ALL MORTAL FLESH by Julia Spencer-Fleming There was a lot to like about this book, but I found more than few things unrealistic and just another part of the template publishers demand, pandering to readers who don’t care much about authenticity in police procedurals. I like both Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, the joint protagonists in the series. Clare is less flawed and more likable, but Russ is a competent cop and both do their thing in an area I know well. In the last episode, Russ declares his love for Clare. And like a putz, he tells his wife, but does not intend to divorce her, leave her, or do anything—but potentially ruin her life with his confession. He didn’t do much for Clare’s mental wellbeing either. In this segment, Russ’s wife is found murdered. And guess who’s looked at as a suspect. Well, the looks shift from Russ, to Clare, back to Russ, and then back to . . . you get the idea. The town elders figure they better make it look like they want an aboveboard investigation, so they relieve Police Chief Russ of command and bring in an obnoxious, politically motivated, investigator from NYSP BCI with a law degree, who wants to use her conviction of a small town chief to make her bones and secure a stepping stone to run for a downstate DA’s job. The investigator has the fatal flaw of any poor detective—tunnel vision. And her refusal to see the most elemental principals of criminal investigation and focus on nothing more than making the evidence meet her desired end goes beyond an element of tension and conflict and into grossly annoying. The unfolding plot was well constructed and quite surprising with several nicely thought up twists, but the ending went a little over the top.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Wow! You will not see it coming in this latest mystery/thriller by Julia Spencer-Fleming. If, as a reader of this series, you think Clare Fergusson's and Russ Van Alstyne's relationship is complicated before this book, you haven't seen anything yet. I don't really want to comment on any of the action or plot in this novel, as every reader deserves to uncover it all piece by delicious piece. Suffice it to say that by the end, I, along with the characters, was wrung out and in need of serious reco Wow! You will not see it coming in this latest mystery/thriller by Julia Spencer-Fleming. If, as a reader of this series, you think Clare Fergusson's and Russ Van Alstyne's relationship is complicated before this book, you haven't seen anything yet. I don't really want to comment on any of the action or plot in this novel, as every reader deserves to uncover it all piece by delicious piece. Suffice it to say that by the end, I, along with the characters, was wrung out and in need of serious recovery time. Of course, neither the character nor I get much rest. On with the next book. Quickly!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    I got a kick out of this crime novel. Clare is an ex-helicopter military pilot now an Episcopal priest when she falls in love with Sheriff Russ. It's cold winter with lots of snow falling and on the ground. There's a murder--Russ's wife who previously booted him out of the house when she discovered his romance with Clare. Russ and Clare are likeable protagonists. I liked the pace and explosive climax. I got a kick out of this crime novel. Clare is an ex-helicopter military pilot now an Episcopal priest when she falls in love with Sheriff Russ. It's cold winter with lots of snow falling and on the ground. There's a murder--Russ's wife who previously booted him out of the house when she discovered his romance with Clare. Russ and Clare are likeable protagonists. I liked the pace and explosive climax.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Liz Dean

    Holy hell. What a trainwreck, soap opera, tragedy, melodrama. The fact is, once you get attached to characters in serial fiction, an author has to be brutal to them to allow them to grow and change - and to keep the story going. Julia Spencer-Fleming delivers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    Another gripping read! And a zinger of an ending. I may have to break down and buy the hardcover of the next one because I don't think I want to wait for the paperback to be published. Another gripping read! And a zinger of an ending. I may have to break down and buy the hardcover of the next one because I don't think I want to wait for the paperback to be published.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Julia Spencer-Fleming's ALL MORTAL FLESH is the fifth book in her Fergusson/Van Alstyne series. My personal opinion is that you need to read books 1-4 before starting this story. Russ and his wife have separated; they have had few things in common for years and it has caused their marriage to suffer. Ms. Fleming permits the reader little reaction to this incident because Mrs. Van Alstyne is seldom mentioned or seen in any of the stories. Much of what happens with their relationship is Russ dwell Julia Spencer-Fleming's ALL MORTAL FLESH is the fifth book in her Fergusson/Van Alstyne series. My personal opinion is that you need to read books 1-4 before starting this story. Russ and his wife have separated; they have had few things in common for years and it has caused their marriage to suffer. Ms. Fleming permits the reader little reaction to this incident because Mrs. Van Alstyne is seldom mentioned or seen in any of the stories. Much of what happens with their relationship is Russ dwelling on the past and his guilt for what he feels now: his unbidden feelings toward Clare. And Clare is very-much part of the story. She is also trying desperately to keep their relationship platonic but she is human, too. For both of them, it is a continual war with their beliefs, how it will affect their life and what it could do to their careers. Darker and grittier, I still felt myself drawn to this long-suffering couple. There is another murder, another twisted plot and more issues with whom you can trust. The invitation to Millers Kill inserted into my reading time again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen Syed

    There are any number of flashy words I could pull from my thesaurus to describe this latest book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, and yet none are adequate. From the opening chapter, Julia Spencer-Fleming delves into the lives of her characters and takes the reader deep inside the story. This story is by far the most personal for Clare and Russ as they struggle to overcome the everyday problems of dealing with tragedy. Caught in their own web of emotional trauma, the murder There are any number of flashy words I could pull from my thesaurus to describe this latest book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, and yet none are adequate. From the opening chapter, Julia Spencer-Fleming delves into the lives of her characters and takes the reader deep inside the story. This story is by far the most personal for Clare and Russ as they struggle to overcome the everyday problems of dealing with tragedy. Caught in their own web of emotional trauma, the murder of Russ' wife only intensifies the drama as they struggle against forbidden feelings. Just when you think you've leveled off in your reading pace, the secondary characters take on lives of their own and weave yet another aspect of intrigue and deception, sending you into a tailspin. Julia Spencer-Fleming is what every writer should aspire to. Her chilling description will have readers cringing in their favorite chair while they devour page after page. Packed with one wicked twist after another, ALL MORTAL FLESH is one hell of a book!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Oh gosh. These books. I CAN'T HANDLE THIS. (view spoiler)[I just want to scream IT'S NOT FAIR IT'S NOT FAIR. For ANY of these poor people! UGH. I'd accidentally read spoilers, so I knew Linda wasn't murdered. I was upset about being spoiled, but, really, I think I would've figured it out because they DIDN'T confirm the identity. AND THEN THE END AND I JUST!!! It was all coming to a head and now they just--it was all taken away and I CAN'T IT'S ALL SO TERRIBLE. (Well-done, though, I think. When I fi Oh gosh. These books. I CAN'T HANDLE THIS. (view spoiler)[I just want to scream IT'S NOT FAIR IT'S NOT FAIR. For ANY of these poor people! UGH. I'd accidentally read spoilers, so I knew Linda wasn't murdered. I was upset about being spoiled, but, really, I think I would've figured it out because they DIDN'T confirm the identity. AND THEN THE END AND I JUST!!! It was all coming to a head and now they just--it was all taken away and I CAN'T IT'S ALL SO TERRIBLE. (Well-done, though, I think. When I figured out what was happening, I was ready to call it a plot contrivance, but no. It just felt like a brutal thing that could happen in real life AND IT'S NOT FAIR. They didn't get to figure it all out on their own! It's just . . . AHHHHHHH.) (hide spoiler)] Okay, I originally gave this four stars, but now that I wrote things out, I guess this one should get five stars for the emotional distress it is causing me. Yes, CURRENTLY CAUSING ME. The end of the book was not an end to my emotional distress!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Oh god. Train wreck has happened. Oh God. How is Spencer-Fleming going to get out of this one? Can she? Please oh please oh please it could go so wrong so many ways. Please let there be some hope for Clare and Russ. ::sob:: I read this in one day. Couldn't put it down. Again, some of the plotting stretches the imagination, but the tension between Clare and Russ, the vivid community of Millers Kill, and the excellent tension-breaking humor that JSF pens makes it all worthwhile. (Tanget: Why on god' Oh god. Train wreck has happened. Oh God. How is Spencer-Fleming going to get out of this one? Can she? Please oh please oh please it could go so wrong so many ways. Please let there be some hope for Clare and Russ. ::sob:: I read this in one day. Couldn't put it down. Again, some of the plotting stretches the imagination, but the tension between Clare and Russ, the vivid community of Millers Kill, and the excellent tension-breaking humor that JSF pens makes it all worthwhile. (Tanget: Why on god's green earth would anyone want to live in Millers Kill anymore? Every season some new tragedy surrounding a gristly murder occurs. If I lived there, I would have hightailed it out of there not long past book 3. It's like living in the worst, crime-ridden area of the worst, crime-ridden city in the world!)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Pribus

    I had read at least one previous book in this series and was seduced by high ratings. There were several books in between and I was thinking that the sexual attraction between the female Epis. priest and the upstate NY town police chief would have faded. But no. It's now front and center and evidently acted upon. Seemed hard to believe she would still be in her pulpit and that, after the murder of his wife, they would be interacting constantly when the whole town seems to know about their affair. I had read at least one previous book in this series and was seduced by high ratings. There were several books in between and I was thinking that the sexual attraction between the female Epis. priest and the upstate NY town police chief would have faded. But no. It's now front and center and evidently acted upon. Seemed hard to believe she would still be in her pulpit and that, after the murder of his wife, they would be interacting constantly when the whole town seems to know about their affair. I stuck it out for about 2 CDs worth, but when said priest went to the murdered wife's mother's home to apologize instead of just staying the heck out of the way, I found the whole thing so soap-opera annoying I just quit. ELIZABETH IS MISSING, also just checked out from library, was far superior in every way.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    The relationship between Clare and Russ takes center stage in the most unexpected way as a horrific scene plays out, pulling everyone into the chaos of secrets and lies. The fifth entry in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series ramps up the tension, the guilt, and the grittiness. The plot takes surprising twists, leading readers to unexpected revelations while building the suspense and taking the story in unpredictable directions. As is true for the earlier stories, the strong sense of plac The relationship between Clare and Russ takes center stage in the most unexpected way as a horrific scene plays out, pulling everyone into the chaos of secrets and lies. The fifth entry in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series ramps up the tension, the guilt, and the grittiness. The plot takes surprising twists, leading readers to unexpected revelations while building the suspense and taking the story in unpredictable directions. As is true for the earlier stories, the strong sense of place gives the narrative depth while all the expected, well-developed characters give the story its believability. The emotional roller-coaster that is “All Mortal Flesh” is likely to keep readers on the edge of their seats and turning-the-pages-as-fast-as-possible up to the shocking twist at the end that holds the power to change everything. Highly recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This series is definitely at the upper limit of my angst tolerance and this installment in particular was rough for me. So much so that I found myself skimming a bit towards the end just to get it finished. (view spoiler)[Especially once it was discovered that Linda was alive—there was opportunity to inject some of the humor from earlier books in and it just didn’t happen. Plus, her unceremoniously dying in an accident subsequently was just a bit too much. Plausible? Sure, but even so... (hide sp This series is definitely at the upper limit of my angst tolerance and this installment in particular was rough for me. So much so that I found myself skimming a bit towards the end just to get it finished. (view spoiler)[Especially once it was discovered that Linda was alive—there was opportunity to inject some of the humor from earlier books in and it just didn’t happen. Plus, her unceremoniously dying in an accident subsequently was just a bit too much. Plausible? Sure, but even so... (hide spoiler)] . Hoping for some actual progress in the next one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joe Slavinsky

    OMG! This series just keeps getting better! I could hardly put this book down. The plot twisted, and turned, like a pretzel. Such an emotional roller-coaster! Major changes by the end of this book. Definitely desperate to get my hands on the next book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cyndi

    This book was exciting! I thought at first I wouldn't be able to enjoy it because it's the fifth in the series. But, it held its own. Now I want to read the rest of the series. This book was exciting! I thought at first I wouldn't be able to enjoy it because it's the fifth in the series. But, it held its own. Now I want to read the rest of the series.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kay (aka) Miss Bates

    I love this series because I love Reverend Clare. For Russ, I have mixed feelings, much the same as I do for DCI Harry Nelson in Griffiths's Ruth Galloway series. Can't these nincompoop men see that they've outgrown their wives and that Clare and Ruth are as close to a soulmate as their hard-headed ways will find? In All Mortal Flesh, while I'm still obsessed with the series and will read what's left of it for me, and await the long-awaited addition, gosh, I was so angry. What a wringer everyone I love this series because I love Reverend Clare. For Russ, I have mixed feelings, much the same as I do for DCI Harry Nelson in Griffiths's Ruth Galloway series. Can't these nincompoop men see that they've outgrown their wives and that Clare and Ruth are as close to a soulmate as their hard-headed ways will find? In All Mortal Flesh, while I'm still obsessed with the series and will read what's left of it for me, and await the long-awaited addition, gosh, I was so angry. What a wringer everyone is put through and that surprise twist ending, so annoying. I like to maintain my reviewer-cool and judge a book on its literary merit, but I can't with this. Hence why I'm vomiting feelings here and ignoring any blog-writing. I'm here, now, leaving Clare and He-Who-Does-Not-Deserve-Her Russ to their ugh-ending to check out what happens between Harry and Ruth in The Woman in Blue ... which already reminds me of Collins's Women In White. So, allusion-promising and ready to be frustrated by Harry. Then, I'll be back with Clare and Russ and hoping, once again, for Clare-vindication.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rrshively

    This series should be read in order, especially for this book. The police chief's wife is murdered, and the state police have him as the prime suspect. The town whispers gossip about him and the female Episcopal priest. Can Russ and Clare get out of this mess and figure out who really killed his wife? Surprise after surprise comes with this mystery novel. Although I guessed one of the murderers at an appropriate time, his pal flew completely under my radar. The book also had other surprises, inc This series should be read in order, especially for this book. The police chief's wife is murdered, and the state police have him as the prime suspect. The town whispers gossip about him and the female Episcopal priest. Can Russ and Clare get out of this mess and figure out who really killed his wife? Surprise after surprise comes with this mystery novel. Although I guessed one of the murderers at an appropriate time, his pal flew completely under my radar. The book also had other surprises, including one toward the very end that involved Police Chief Russ's personal life and one that had to do with Clare's personal decision. Surprises galore!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve Betz

    Can't say that I was a huge fan of this installment in the Russ and Claire series. The mystery that was the undercard in this novel was really pretty straightforward to suss out and Spencer-Fleming's big plot twists felt fairly telegraphed. On top of it, I felt like both Claire and Russ acted in (really stupid) ways that undermined both the storytelling and the way that we've grown to know them as characters. Not sure if I'll go back to Miller's Kill again. Can't say that I was a huge fan of this installment in the Russ and Claire series. The mystery that was the undercard in this novel was really pretty straightforward to suss out and Spencer-Fleming's big plot twists felt fairly telegraphed. On top of it, I felt like both Claire and Russ acted in (really stupid) ways that undermined both the storytelling and the way that we've grown to know them as characters. Not sure if I'll go back to Miller's Kill again.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bett

    I enjoyed this one; the entire story revolved around the two major characters, instead of the scattered story of the previous episode. Ups and downs as usual for the Clare & Russ relationship, and a teaser ending promising dramatic twists to come. I’m tearing through these books ;).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judy Foldi

    I was angry at the author for the first part of the book but she sucked me in, chewed me up and spat me back out again. I’ve really become invested in the characters and will certainly read the next one.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christine (AR)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Oh, good grief. If Clare still wants Russ after this, I'm done. And I'm heartily sick of this whole "the heart wants what it wants" crap, too. Grow up, people. Oh, good grief. If Clare still wants Russ after this, I'm done. And I'm heartily sick of this whole "the heart wants what it wants" crap, too. Grow up, people.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is an old, favorite hymn and is quoted in the fifth book ongoing saga of Clare and Russ. A few strange twists. The first book is still my favorite. "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is an old, favorite hymn and is quoted in the fifth book ongoing saga of Clare and Russ. A few strange twists. The first book is still my favorite.

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