Born in Plattsburgh, NY; married Ross Hugo-Vidal; children: Victoria, Spencer, Virginia. Education: Graduate of Ithaca College and George Washington University; University of Maine, J.D. Religion: Episcopalian.
Attorney and novelist.
Malice Domestic award, St. Martin's Press, Barry Award, Deadly Pleasures magazine, Macavity Award, Mystery Readers International, Dilys Award, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Agatha Award, and Anthony Award, all 2003, all for In the Bleak Midwinter.
"CLARE FERGUSSON" SERIES
In the Bleak Midwinter, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
A Fountain Filled with Blood, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
Out of the Deep I Cry, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.
To Darkness and to Death, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2005.
All Mortal Flesh, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Julia Spencer-Fleming completed her first novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, just days after giving birth to her third child. A few months later, Fleming found herself lacking enough time to find an agent and a publisher. Instead, she entered her manuscript in St. Martin's Press's Best First Novel contest. Only months after, In the Bleak Midwinter won the award and was published in 2002.
Spencer-Fleming' series features former helicopter pilot, now an Episcopalian priest, Clare Fergusson, who shares a mutual attraction with a local married police chief, Russ Van Alstyne. The novels take place in Millers Kill, an upstate New York town Spencer-Fleming modeled after her own hometown of Plattsburgh, New York. As she explained on her home page, she chose this setting because "that part of New York, where poor farms and Saratoga money and the mountains all come together, has always held a bone-deep fascination for me."
In the Bleak Midwinter centers on a mystery involving an abandoned baby and the baby's recently deceased mother. The second in the series, A Fountain Filled with Blood, has the duo arguing about a recent rash of gay bashings in their town. Both novels use the harsh northern weather as a challenging background to the conflicts.
Rex E. Klett, reviewing Spencer-Fleming's debut novel in Library Journal recommended In the Bleak Midwinter for all collections due to Fleming's "superb skill, exact detail, and precise diction, [which] highlights credible personal conflicts." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel "a riveting pageturner from start to finish with characters who are well developed and believable."
A Fountain Filled with Blood builds on the popularity of the first mystery with "even more action and plot twists" than Spencer-Fleming's "notable debut," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. Sue O'Brien noted in Booklist that "serious issues such as gay bashing and contamination of the town's water supply … add depth to the story." Reviewing A Fountain Filled with Blood in Publishers Weekly, a critic called the novel "every bit as riveting as the first." The mystery has "eloquent exposition and natural dialogue," the critic added, noting that Spencer-Fleming's "precisely constructed plot moves effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion."
Out of the Deep I Cry takes place during the solemn period of Lent. The roof of St. Alban's Episcopal Church is leaking and a beautiful stained-glass window is in danger of being damaged. Wealthy Mrs. Marshall offers to pay for repairs with the interest from the Ketchem Trust, which was set up seventy years earlier by the widow of Jonathan Ketchem who, with their four children, died of diphtheria. The money had been going to the Jonathon Ketchem Free Clinic, which had been promised the money now administered by daughter Lacey Ketchem who was being stressed by the protests of artist Deborah Clow, an opponent of the use of thimerosal in vaccines. Dr. Allen Rouse, director of the clinic, disappears in much the same manner as had Jonathan Ketchem. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Spencer-Fleming "expertly portrays the power of grief, guilt, greed and love and their effect on good people in a story as chilling as the month of March in Millers Kill."
To Darkness and to Death finds Clare joining the rescue squad to search for Millicent van der Hoeven. Van der Hoeven, with her siblings, was about to sell family land to the Adirondack Conservancy Corporation at the behest of Global Wood Products, thereby affecting the amount of lumber available to a local lumbering operation. This takes Clare away from preparing for the annual visit of the bishop. This installment features a number acts of violence and heroism, as well as a long-overdue meeting between Claire and Linda, Russ's wife.
Gossip about Clare's continuing platonic relationship with Russ threatens her position with the church and Russ's marriage in All Mortal Flesh. When a body, assumed to be that of Linda, is found, suspicion is aroused. But when the victim turns out not to be Linda, Linda's whereabouts are a mystery. Stephanie Zvirin wrote in Booklist that this book broaches "some thoughtful questions about religion, relationships, and morality in the modern world." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that the story's "nerve center is the lacerating relationship between two people who can't live with or without each other."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Sue O'Brien, review of A Fountain Filled with Blood, p. 1055; February 15, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of Out of the Deep I Cry, p. 1044; May 1, 2005, Sue O'Brien, review of To Darkness and to Death, p. 1537; August 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of All Mortal Flesh, p. 52.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2001, review of In the Bleak Midwinter, p. 1726; February 15, 2003, review of A Fountain Filled with Blood, p. 274; May 15, 2005, review of To Darkness and to Death, p. 567; August 15, 2006, review of All Mortal Flesh, p. 814.
Library Journal, February 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of In the Bleak Midwinter, p. 136; April 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of Out of the Deep I Cry, p. 126; June 15, 2005, Michele Leber, review of To Darkness and to Death, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly, February 11, 2002, review of In the Bleak Midwinter, p. 164; February 24, 2003, review of A Fountain Filled with Blood, p. 55; March 8, 2004, review of Out of the Deep I Cry, p. 53, Kay Brundige, "PW Talks with Julia Spencer-Fleming," p. 54; May 30, 2005, review of To Darkness and to Death, p. 42.
John M. Scalzi blog,http://journals.aol.com/johnmscalzi/bytheway/ (May 24, 2006), John M. Scalzi, interview with Spencer-Fleming.'
Julia Spencer-Fleming Web site,http://www.juliaspencerfleming.com (February 4, 2007).
Murderati Web site,http://www.murderati.typepad.com/murderati/ (August 19, 2006), Elaine Flinn, interview with Spencer-Fleming.