Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Minotaur Books
Pub date: November 5, 2013

Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson is three months married, five months pregnant, and in danger of losing her job. Her husband, police chief Russ Van Alstyne, bitterly resents his new wife, has absolutely no desire to be a father, and fears his entire department’s about to be cut. Eight-year-old Mikayala Johnson has been kidnapped, her foster parents burned in their beds, and if she doesn’t receive medical attention soon, she’ll die. And an ice storm of epic proportions has New York in its sights. Life is about to get awfully messy – both literally and figuratively – for the residents of Millers Kill. Will they survive the tempest? And will there be anything left worth living for if they do?

If Through the Evil Days had a soundtrack, it would be a ticking clock. There’s not a single point-of-view character in this, the eighth of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Novels, who doesn’t start out the book already under the gun. And with Spencer-Fleming using her considerable talents to ratchet up the tension with every passing scene, you’ll be gasping for breath and begging for mercy long before you’ve untangled the last thread of her elegantly complex plot.

Spencer-Fleming’s character work is exquisite. Each cast member, from Russ and Clare on down, is a fully fleshed, perfectly realized human being who’s governed – for good or for ill – by his or her own unique set of hopes, dreams, fears, and flaws. Consequently, you not only get to know her characters over the course of her tale, but you grow care for them and to become deeply invested in their fates, as well. The end result is a story with astonishing emotional depth and a denouement that dishes out hope and devastation in equal measure. This is the kind of book you feel in your gut – not only while you’re reading it, but for days and weeks to come.

Julia Spencer-Fleming is a master storyteller, and this is her finest work to date. Through the Evil Days deserves a spot on every one of the Year’s Best lists. Take my advice and buy yourself a copy now so that you can brag about it later.

Katrina Niidas Holm