For any mystery lovers out there looking for books with a strong female protagonist and a clerical twist: My mother and I both enjoy Julia Spencer-Fleming's series featuring the Rev. Claire Fergusson, ex-Marine-turned Episcopal priest who fights crime while serving her parish in the Adirondacks. (Now, stop laughing; because I know you're laughing. You will only be asked to suspend your disbelief for a few pages per book.) The series includes In the Bleak Midwinter; A Fountain Filled With Blood; Out of the Depths I Cry; and, coming in June, To Darkness and To Death.
The Rev. Claire is actually one of the more multidimensional sleuths I have come across in genre fiction; and the author's insights into the inner workings of parish life -- the interpersonal frictions, Vestry Members From Hell, major church controversies played out on the congregational level -- are, as they say, spot on. The Rev. Claire possesses a very real, very thought-out and lived-out Christian faith, which I find refreshing. There is also an ongoing subplot involving the priest and the local sheriff that -- well, I'm not going to spill the beans, but the last novel ended at a critical juncture, and Mom and I are both anxiously awaiting the next book to see how things will shake out.
I think the Rev. Claire is swell. She'd make a great action figure too, with major potential for accessorizing -- her Roman-collared daywear, clerical robes and vestments in appropriate liturgical colors, her old Marine dress uniform, maybe some martial-arts gear. She'd kick Barbie's butt in more ways than one.
Anyhow...check out these books. Good beach reading for the coming summer.