The ninth case for Millers Kill Police Chief Russell Van Alstyne and his wife, Rev. Clare Fergusson, is actually three cases that span more than 60 years.
A young woman in a party dress is found dead out in the middle of McEachron Hill Road. Though there’s not a mark on her, everyone on the Millers Kill force instantly suspects murder because that’s the same spot where two similarly dressed women were found dead in 1952 and 1972. Neither earlier case was ever solved. In fact, the closest thing to a suspect in the 1972 case was Russ Van Alstyne, having some serious readjustment issues after his tour in Vietnam. Being on the other side of the investigation doesn’t feel any more comfortable for Russ, who’s already struggling to help Clare cope with Ethan, their infant son; manage the absence of Officer Kevin Flynn, whose new job with the Syracuse Police Department involves some undercover work uncomfortably close to his former hometown; and face down the continuing threat to shut down his department and leave the New York State Police responsible for Millers Kill’s impressive slate of homicides (Through the Evil Days, 2013, etc.). For her part, Clare is pressed to welcome a new intern, Joni Langevoort, a seminary student from Manhattan who turns out to be transgender. Though Joni’s mother is warmly supportive of her daughter’s transition, just the proximity of the family’s wealth and power will ring alarm bells for fans of the series who join Russ and his fragile department in wondering whether they’re dealing with copycat crimes or no crimes at all—or whether the same person really could have murdered all three of those young women between 1952 and the present. The narrative hopscotches nimbly but not very revealingly among the three time periods right through the unsatisfying, early-arriving solution, which doesn’t slow down the continuing complications in all three time frames that reveal where the author’s heart really lies.
As ambitious as Spencer-Fleming’s best as long as you don’t expect a tidy whodunit.