– Hid from Our Eyes
Hid from Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming. New York: Minotaur Books, 2020, 340 pages, $27.99
Hid from Our Eyes is the ninth outing in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s popular mystery series set in upstate New York with main characters Episcopal rector Clare Fergusson and her husband Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. It’s been 7 years since the last outing in this broodingly atmospheric crime series set in the Adirondack Mountains and the summer finds the couple adjusting to life as new parents of a baby boy.
Simultaneously, they’re investigating the local murders of 3 young women over a thirty odd-year period that have a very similar modus operandi—the young female victims are found dead in isolated areas clothed in party dresses and the postmortems don’t provide an immediately identifiable cause of death. This appears to be a nod to “Hid from Our Eyes”, a phrase from an old-fashioned hymn that summarizes the situation in fictional Miller’s Kill, New York—nothing when investigated is as it appears on first inspection.
In a contemporary subplot, Rector Clare has to deal with multiple hot-button issues in the community including accepting a transgender ministry intern, dealing with her husband Russ having been a youthful suspect in one of the “copycat” murders, and fending off a move to de-fund the local police department, thus putting Russ out of a job. Rector Clare is also finding that the stress of motherhood is testing her new-found sobriety. Being a clergyperson, first-time older mother, and helicopter-pilot combat veteran all bring emotional baggage to the current investigations.
Another subplot involves the on-again, off-again relationship between young female deputy Hadley and her lover and former local deputy Kevin who has gone off to do undercover work for another police department after disturbing revelations about Hadley’s past. When Hadley’s ex-husband subpoenas them and alleges police misconduct, it further jeopardizes the Miller’s Kill Police Department’s chances of survival.
Events in Hid from Our Eyes flow fluidly between narratives set in 1952, 1972, and the “present-day” of the fictional series. This much chronological back and forth is hard to pull off in a novel, but Spencer-Fleming ties it together neatly and seamlessly in a finale not nearly so transparent as the plots of many series mysteries. Her novels also have plotting that survives a stand-alone reading without huge amounts of backstory from previous series entries. What shines through is emotionally complex characters and a tendency to eschew the happy “pat ending” for something much darker, grittier, and believable.
Spencer-Fleming lives in Maine and is a trained attorney. Her books have won the Agatha, Anthony, Dilys, Barry, Macavity, and Gumshoe awards.
Lisa Kobrin is the Reference Services Manager at May Memorial Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.