LIGHT, TRAIN, TUNNEL
If you read for escapism and live for the happy ending, this is not the book for you to read. The title of this book, “Through the Evil Days,” says it all. You are going to be reading about evil people doing evil things to the unsuspecting over a period of eight days.
You are going to be dealing with unrelenting realism punctuated by pure terror and underlined by a depression that lays harder and harder on your mind with the passing of each chapter. And, on its last stark sentence, you will close an incredibly well-written book with a feeling of such sorrow that you may sit immobilized for a time wondering just what book you will need to read next to get past this one.
Three simultaneous scenarios drive the action in this 8th and latest entry in Spencer-Flemings’ Reverend Clare Fergusson series. First, Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne have been married for only three months, but Clare’s accidental pregnancy is 5 ½ months along. Russ, in his early 50’s, does not want to spend the rest of his life raising a child and Clare, an Episcopal priest, will not have an abortion. Complicating the pregnancy is Clare’s PTSD, mental scarring left over from her recent military service in the Middle East and a situation which she originally tried to resolve with alcohol and pills.
And it gets worse. Unbeknownst to Russ, Clare’s bishop has demanded her resignation in lieu of charges of sexual misconduct prior to marriage. But unbeknownst to Clare, Russ has learned that the town council intends to disband the police force, putting him out of a job. Cap this off with a delayed honeymoon to a remote lake cabin for some ice fishing with a snowstorm in the forecast and the first miserable stage is set.
Just as Russ and Clare are leaving for the lake, they are called to the scene of a massive house fire. Clearly arson, the couple who owned the house are dead, not by fire but by gunshot. Their foster child, Makayla Johnson, the recipient of a recent liver transplant, apparently has been kidnapped, and without her immunosuppressant meds, will likely die within a week. Since Makayla is the child of a known meth user, dealer and smurfer, the second miserable stage is set.
Coincident with the first two, the third scenario roars in. Hadley Knox’s ex-husband, Dylan, is standing on her doorstep. He needs money for a new business venture and demands the masters of the porn films they made together when they were in LA. Either she gives over the goods or he will expose her past and take the two children back to LA, based on a technicality in their custody agreement.
Knowing that when those films hit the Internet, her law enforcement career will be over and knowing what Dylan will do with and to the children in LA, Hadley refuses to surrender either the tapes or the children. But she apparently does not understand the basic tenets governing a blackmailer: they always come back for more and they always make good on their threats. And, thus, the third miserable stage is set.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW:
This bleak beginning just gets darker as the book progresses. Every chapter is tainted with the red of blood – past, present or yet to be spilled. And the few scenes where a smile or a laugh sneaks out are tainted by the gray pall of facts we, as readers, know but the protagonists involved do not.
As we approach the final conflicts that individually stem from each of the three plots, we know that any light we see at the end of the proverbial tunnel is only the headlight of the proverbial on-coming train. While Spencer-Fleming spares us a cliffhanger, she does not reverse her previous course and choose to spare us pain. She simply pins us to our seats and forces us, to the very last word, to watch the train that carries two of our protagonists inexorably and permanently go off the tracks.
Cover Art From Goodreads