After the success of last year's debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, Spencer-Fleming returns to the town of Millers Kill, New York. Her heroine, former military chopper pilot and Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson, is outraged when some gay men become the object of hate crime.

As she probes into the hate-crime attacks, she becomes acquainted with Peggy Landry, owner of a large piece of land whose development deal has stalled by possible PCB contamination. Developer Bill Ingraham threatens to halt construction of the spa resort he's building on Peggy's land if environmental testing begins again. Soon Ingraham's body turns up in a watering trough, and her friend Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne must investigate the murder.

Reluctantly attracted to Clare while trying to protect her from her adrenaline-induced behavior, the married Russ uses all the resources of his small department. When Clare decides to attend a party at Peggy's home, Russ once again comes to her rescue, as she makes a discovery that could be a break in the investigation.

This unique and riveting book is a thrill ride complete with romantic tension. As the mystery twists, slowly unfolding into a neat package, readers will already be eagerly anticipating the next installment in this well-crafted series. (Apr., 304 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Sheri Melnick