Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming, 2020 Minotaur Books hardcover or ebook, Claire Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (# 9), mystery, 352 pages. I read the ebook version on Kindle for the Mac.
This is the ninth book in Spencer-Fleming’s series of mysteries set in Miller’s Kill, upstate New York. It’s been seven years since the previous book, and many readers, including myself, have been anticipating this book.
Hid From Our Eyes picks up a couple of months after the events of 2013’s Through the Evil Days, Spencer-Fleming’s last novel. Clare and Russ are now parents, doting on their 4-month-old son, Ethan. They juggle child-care duties and exhaustion while Clare tries to maintain her sobriety. A movement to replace the small Millers Kill police department with the state police has Russ and his officers on edge, fearing they will lose their jobs.
Then the body of a well-dressed young woman with no obvious sign of foul play is found in the middle of an out-of-the-way road. The Medical Examiner can’t find a cause of death. However:
1952. Millers Kill Police Chief Harry McNeil is called to a crime scene where a woman in a party dress has been murdered with no obvious cause of death.
1972. Millers Kill Police Chief Jack Liddle is called to a murder scene of a woman that’s very similar to one he worked as a trooper in the 50s. The only difference is this time, they have a suspect. Young Vietnam War veteran Russ van Alstyne found the body while riding his motorcycle and is quickly pegged as the prime focus of the investigation.
Present-day. Millers Kill Police Chief Russ van Alstyne gets a 911 call that a young woman has been found dead in a party dress, the same MO as the crime he was accused of in 1972. The pressure is on for Russ to solve the murder before he’s removed from the case.
As usual, Russ enlists the help of his police squad and Reverend Clare Fergusson, who is already juggling the tasks of being a new mother while running St. Alban’s Church.
While I think this was a great plot idea, and the idea of various police Chiefs being involved over the years, for me it stretched out a little too much. Still, I was fine with that. I sure didn’t see the solution coming until near the end, and that’s good. But please, leave out all the stuff about the baby, the cranky baby, the wailing baby, the baby tossing food about, the baby… You get the idea. Other than making Claire (and the reader, in my case) grumpy, those scenes did nothing to advance the plot a single iota. Also, note that there is a cliffhanger at the end.
So for fans, or completists, this is worth reading. Otherwise, you have been warned.