IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER
There's a new priest in town. Reverend Clare Ferguson is ruffling some feathers as she settles into life in quiet Millers Kill, NY. She's not only the first female to run the small Episcopalian church of St. Mark's, but Clare's an army veteran who is blunt, focused and decidedly unconventional when dealing with problems.
When a baby is left on the doorstep of the church on a snowy winter night with a note asking that he be placed with a family from the parish, and then a young woman from the town is killed, police chief Russ Van Alstyne starts looking into the small town's secretswith Clare's unshakable presence. But as sparks smolder between the very married cop and the very, uh, clerical priest, it becomes clear that the town's not the only one keeping secrets
The plot of this slow-ticking suspense novel takes many twists before settling on somewhat of an old-hat ending, but what really drives the story is its compelling main characters. Clare is one kick-ass minister; she's strong yet compassionate, and clearly untraditional. It will be interesting to see her effects on her conservative country parish in future novels. Russ is as solid and upstanding as small-town sheriffs come, but his growing intimacy with Clare serves as a nice kickstart for conflict and sexual tension to escalate throughout the series. (Mar., 272 pp., $23.95)