Three similar murders separated by decades...an all too familiar crime scene. | BookishFirst

Three similar murders separated by decades...an all too familiar crime scene.

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Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming is a great small town murder mystery story with a captivating plot that spans decades, well developed characters, clever twists and a realistic and unexpected ending. This is the 9th book in the Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery series and it can easily be read as a standalone since the author provides enough of a backstory to keep the reader fully engaged and completely informed. Although this is the first book I have read in this series, I found myself immediately pulled in by the author’s talented descriptive writing style and the unique and clever plot. The style in which the story is told and the way the mystery unfolds made this book difficult to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and I definitely look forward to reading more books in this series.

Hid From Our Eyes takes place in the Adirondacks in Upstate New York where there have been three murders, all very similar, each happening decades apart. Each time a young woman’s body is found in the middle of the same road, dressed in a party dress, with no shoes, no purse and no obvious cause of death.

The first murder happened in August of 1952 when Harry McKneil was the Millers Kill chief of police.There was no forensics, no identification of the young woman, no cause of death and no suspect.

The second murder happened in August of 1972 when Jack Little was the chief of police. This time they had a suspect, Russ Van Alstyne, who just came home from Vietnam. Russ found the body in the road and he quickly became a suspect. With no evidence he’s never convicted but he’s never really cleared.

The third murder happens in August of the present and Russ Van Alstyne is now the Killers Mill chief of police. Russ is a new father and is married to Clare Ferguson. Clare is an Episcopal minister and a recovering addict and alcoholic. She’s a nervous new mother and she constantly worries that her addiction may have hurt her child. She’s trying to balance her work, motherhood and is facing her own troubles. Russ is under a lot of pressure to solve the case before the town votes on a referendum to close his police department and allow the State Police to take over. Russ is determined to save the Millers Kill Police Department from being dissolved. With the help of his police squad, his wife Reverend Clare Ferguson, and modern forensics, will Russ be able to solve the murders spanning decades before he loses everything?

Who is killing young women and leaving them on the road? Why are the victims all dressed in party dresses and what caused their deaths? Is the timing between the murders significant? Since the present day chief of police Russ Van Alstyne was once a suspect, will he have more insight into these mysterious murders and will he finally be able to solve the cases that completely baffled the two previous Millers Kill chiefs?

Hid From Our Eyes is written in varying points of view from several different characters. I particularly enjoyed how the story unfolds while getting the point of view of each of the three different police chiefs in the three different time periods. The author does a marvelous job of having different chapters in the book seamlessly switching between the three different timelines. The characters are all well developed, complicated, complex and flawed but well liked. The setting is realistic, and the story becomes intense as the clues finally come together ending in a very unexpected way. The similarities between the mysterious murders and their unusual timing pulled me in and left me wanting more. I completely enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing style of each of the murder scenes, the different time periods they occurred in and how the investigations were handled by the different Millers Kill police chiefs. Despite having the mystery of the murders solved, the book does end with some new and unresolved problems for Russ and Clare and a pretty major cliffhanger. That’s definitely not my favorite way of ending a book but it in no way deters from how much I enjoyed reading this story. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a complex murder mystery, with unexpected twists and a surprising ending. I look forward to seeing how Julia Spencer-Fleming develops the next book in this series and what’s next for Clare and Russ!