Book Review of Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming,
Published by Minotaur Books, 2013
Through suspenseful twists and turns, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s latest book is almost impossible to put down. I read it at breakneck speed, in one sitting. Through the Evil Days is a tightly crafted, complicated story line that almost requires notes or a GPS for recording the location of all the players. It is written in Spencer-Fleming’s usual style that incorporates the real names, places, and issues of New York’s Washington County area into the fictional setting of Miller’s Kill and the supporting details that she has developed through the series.
The action takes place over seven stormy days in the New York North Country which is author Julia Spencer-Fleming’s typical setting for the Clare Fergusson/ Russ Van Alstyne novels. This is the eighth book in the series that features the couple as they journey together through romance, marriage, pregnancy, and two 24/7 careers. All the major characters are back for thiscomplicated, suspenseful, and challenging installment that moves all the pre-existing story lines forward in a thoroughly satisfying reading experience. Significant subjects featured in Through the Evil Days are: the weather; the drug trade in the region; the relationship between Clare and Russ, now that they’re married and expecting a child; the romantic sparks between Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox, along with the appearance of Hadley’s ex-husband; and a kidnapped child who needs medicine to prevent the rejection of a recent liver transplant. Clare and Russ get stranded by a winter storm in a remote lakeside rental cabin during their previously delayed honeymoon, close to the hide-out of the kidnappers. They work to rescue the child, while being cut off from the outside world. Meanwhile, the rest of the Millers Kill Police Department is also trying to locate the child, as well as a meth lab where dangerous criminals are producing contraband.
My second time through the book allowed me to identify and enjoy the more nuanced and complex parts of the plot. Spencer-Fleming has always been great at writing pieces that convey the challenges and positives in relationships and ongoing situations that move the plot and the series forward. In particular for this book, I especially appreciated the truths and dilemmas revealed about marriage, bringing a child into the world, and the Church– as it stumbles into modern culture with crumbling traditions and outdated practices. Also, the concerns about the drug culture in upstate New York, as well as the staffing of emergency and police organizations in rural, remote areas are real. Finally, as in the previous books, we are left hanging with unresolved situations and issues that, I hope, will be picked up in the next book in this series.
This is a must read for all lovers of the Fergusson and Van Alstyne series! While the publication of Through the Evil Days provides a great motivation to begin to read the whole series, I think this might be a less than satisfying read as a “stand alone” novel. Well done Julia—start writing the next one QUICKLY!
–Regina Baird Haag