Clare Ferguson is St. Alban's new Episcopalian priest: it's quite a conservative area so she's not universally accepted. Clare is an ex-army pilot so is quite tough and not a delicate flower. A baby is left on the church steps and Clare finds it, a little boy named Cody. The unknown mother asks that the child be given to a couple who attend the church who have been wanting to adopt for years. They discover who the mother is eventually, a young student, Katie McWhorter, but before they can find her she turns up on the snowy banks of the river, dead. The case brings Clare into contact with Russ Van Alstyne, the local chief of police. He too is ex-army so they have a lot in common and immediately strike up a friendship, but Russ is married...
The case is complicated. The obvious suspect for the murder is the baby's father but who is it? There are many possibilities, her ex-boyfriend, the husband of the couple the girl wanted to have the baby, an 'unknown' new boyfriend... even her own father it seems. Clare gets very involved and Russ can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Then another body turns up and the repercussions bring Clare's own life into jeopardy in ways she could never have imagined.
Well, goodness, several people have recommended this series to me over the years. One of those cases where I've said to myself, 'Yeah, yeah... I'll get to it one day'. Now of course I wish I'd got to it a lot quicker!
For a start it has the most wonderful setting of upper New York State. We went there in 1996, stayed in a skiing lodge in the Adirondacks, headed across to Vermont and New Hampshire and then back via Albany and The Finger Lakes. It's a glorious, heart-breakingly beautiful region and this book took me back seventeen years to that particular US trip and made me want to go again. Not sure December would be the best time to go though, it sounds like a hard place to be at that time of year. Though the idea of hibernating through the winter in a log cabin in the forests and mountains with loads of books and a roaring fire does quite appeal.
I liked Clare very much indeed. She's a tough cookie who's known tragedy in her life and like many women had to adjust early to not being tradionally beautiful, so used her brains to make a life for herself. She's clearly attracted to Russ, and he to her, but she has morals and good for her. It'll be interesting to see how that pans out in subsequent books. I like Russ and I like the supporting cast, particularly the two secretaries, Harlene and Lois, who are the source of some nice humour in the book.
The mystery itself had me flummoxed most of the way through, I suppose it became clear who the culprit was when it was supposed to, so that means it worked very well. The book is well written, 'intelligently' written, which I like. There was no rushing through this, it took me several days to read and I would not describe it as a 'cozy', though it's not hard-nosed either. To be honest, for me, it was a perfect little book. After abandoning two books over the last week or so it was so nice to find a little gem to immerse myself in. I have book two on reserve from the library but that's all they have... I'm pretty sure I will be buying the rest.