Monday, April 3, 2017

I Shall not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming

It's not the latest Claire Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery, just the last one I read. But the order of reading them doesn't matter. Julia Spencer-Fleming is one of those authors that make you want to read everything she writes, in any order.

I love this writer for her use of language, whether she's describing a setting, or using puns, jokes, and double entendre in fresh and believable dialogue.

Clare experiences spring in Miller's Kill as "the scent of apple and thick May grass rising over the tinny smell of cars baking in the sunshine," and lawyer Geoff Burns in a snit stomps off "like a pint-size Godzilla looking for Tokyo."

When Karen Burns overhears Hugh make a witty and flirtatious comment to Clare, the Reverend tells her to ignore him, saying "He's only a few Internet sites away from complete deviancy."

Lois, the church secretary, teases Clare about leaving her new boyfriend "kicking his heels" while she danced all night with Chief Van Alstyne, then follows her blushing employer from the room, "smiling like the owner of a dumb dog who has just learned a new trick."

Clare, as usual, gets mixed up with criminal elements -- two of the villains are nicknamed Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber. Forced to confront an ex-con on a mountain top, she decides to play it crazy. "Are you a druglord?" she asks the con, trying to "sound like a teenybopper meeting a member of he latest boy band."

The best lines are not always funny. I loved this description of Amado, the young farm labourer, as against his better judgment, he falls for the sister of some local gangsters: "He could have resisted her bare skin, but her naked faith broke him."

Like Russ and Clare, Spencer-Fleming is concerned about social conflict. She writes eloquently of the plight of Latino farm labourers in the US. Amado, a Mexican, is worried because his fellow labourers are illegal. As soon as it finds out, a government agency is poised to deport these young men as criminals or terrorists. He is "tired of the patron relying on him, and the men looking to him, and the weight of responsibility, to his brother in this country, and to their family at home."

In this book, Deputy Chief Lyle McCaulay gets one of the really crucial lines. Trying to comfort Clare for quarreling while Russ, who now lies unconscious in hospital, Lyle tells the Reverend, "We don't have near enough time on this earth, and what we do have, we fritter away acting like damn fools."

It's a salutary reminder to focus on what matters. And that, in life as in the novel, is the love we share.

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