Throughout this series, priest and social activist Clare has worked along side Russ to protect victims and capture assorted killers. Meanwhile the two of them have struggled mightily against their attraction to one another. Although never physically unfaithful to his wife, Russ couldn't live with the emotional deception and eventually came clean about his feelings for Clare. Not surprisingly, Russ' wife responded by throwing him out of the house. In Spencer-Fleming's previous book, ALL MORTAL FLESH, Russ faced a life-and-death choice between his wife and Clare. By the end of that book, Russ was a widower – but the circumstances of his wife's death had driven a horrible wedge between Clare and himself.
In the current book, I SHALL NOT WANT, Russ is a single man again, but one consumed by guilt over the decision that cost his wife her life. Clare meanwhile, is on a kind of probation as a parish priest. In her earlier life, Clare was an Army helicopter pilot and has now been directed by her bishop to re-enlist. He feels that her meddling in police matters indicates a lack of dedication to the spiritual life and suspects she should never have left the military. Clare struggles through each day, trying to resume her role as St. Alban's pastor while spending her weekends at National Guard training. She and Russ are keeping well away from one another.
When a young migrant worker is found dead, Clare stumbles into another murder investigation – and back into Russ' arms. As more bodies are found, the small agricultural town fears that a serial killer is on the loose – one targeting Latino farm workers. Clare and Russ scramble to protect another immigrant who may be a witness to the crimes, while also trying to resolve their mutual guilt and anger over the death of Russ' wife.
As always, Julia Spencer-Fleming paints a vivid and lyrical portrait of life in the upstate New York community of Miller's Kill. Her stories are not gory or extremely graphic, but they do present cleverly plotted mysteries and an accurate, realistic rendering of police work, which makes them must-reads for any mystery fan.
I SHALL NOT WANT is a wonderful story on its own, but I wouldn't recommend that new readers start here. The gradual unfolding of the relationship between Clare and Russ is so important to the series, you should really begin at the beginning, with IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. I SHALL NOT WANT concludes on a more hopeful note than the previous entry in this series, but poor Clare and Russ are still a long way from a storybook happy ending. I plan to keep reading this brilliant series until the lovers finally get that happy ending – or die in the attempt.