Lifestyle: The plot thickens

By Ben Beagle, Daily News Lifestyles Editor

Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books are disappearing from area libraries.

But the reason is hardly a mystery.

“Word of mouth with readers often makes a book popular and that is what is happening here,” said Leslie DeLooze, reference and community services librarian at Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia.

Spencer-Fleming’s debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter — this year’s selection for “A Tale for Three Counties” — “leaves a door open and readers are wondering what happens next to the characters,” DeLooze said.

In the Bleak Midwinter is the first in a series of three mystery novels centered around The Rev. Clare Fergusson, an Episcopal priest and amateur sleuth. Many characters in this book are included in her two sequels, A Fountain Filled With Blood and Out of the Deep I Cry, which further explore the attraaction between Clare and the town’s married police chief.

Readers have wasted little time reading deeper into the series.

“The first one, I was just on the edge of my seat the whole time,” said Linda Daviau of Batavia. “So I went and read her second and third books.”

A fourth book in the series in due in June.

“A Tale for Three Counties” has people in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties reading the same book, and then talking about it at discussions at their local libraries. The author visits next month for a series of talks and book signings.

Readers are saying they are drawn to the book because they found it easy to relate to the characters Spencer-Fleming has created.

Ann Burlingham of Perry said that Clare “is a fallible, believable character who faces her duties with strength and wit.”

Frances H. McNulty of Batavia called Clare “a fine example of today’s modern woman” and said she was someone she’d like to get to know.

The Rev. Paul H. Letiecq of Albion said In the Bleak Midwinter “is a well-told, gripping story that reached out and involved my heart in caring for the characters and a positive outcome.

“It moved me so engagingly that I have acquired the author’s next book in the series,” he said, noting that he has been “really enjoying” A Fountain Filled With Blood.

Janet Lee of Batavia read In the Bleak Midwinter, attended the book discussion, entered the contest, read the second book, and is waiting her turn to check out the third book.

“I am interested in the relationship that is developing between Clare and the chief of police,” she said.

There has been so much demand for the books, that interlibrary loans throughout the Nioga system have been unable to keep up with the requests.

At Richmond Library, a popular mystery is typically checked out about 35 times. Already, In the Bleak Midwinter, has gone out 214 times and the library has sold nearly 100 copies of the book. And that doesn’t begin to count how many people have actually read the book. Sometimes, several members of the same household will share a single book, DeLooze said.

Spencer-Fleming’s other books are also being checked out frequently. Richmond’s 10 copies of A Fountain Filled With Blood have gone out 85 times.

“It isn’t on the shelf,” DeLooze said. “It goes out as soon as it comes in.”

The library has six copies of Out of the Deep I Cry, and they’ve gone out 77 times.

Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield has long waiting lists for the two sequels, said director Jen Magee.

Swan Library in Albion has circulated copies of In the Bleak Midwinter 28 times. The other two books have each gone out about half as many times.

“Some of the folks who’ve read the first book have gone on to read all three and enjoyed them,” said Librarian Susie Gaylard. “Many of these folks are looking forward to the fourth novel.”

At Stevens Memorial Community Library in Attica, In the Bleak Midwinter has been “checked out constantly,” said acting director Nancy Burns.

The library is taking requests when all the copies of the book are circulating. The library bought five copies of each title, “so the patrons are thoroughly enjoying the mysteries,” Burns said.

A book group at Richmond Memorial Library is using A Fountain Filled With Blood for its March 9 discussion. Readers at the Bergen Public Library have decided to read the third book for their next discussion on March 17.

“It came as a surprise,” said director Nancy Bailey. “It’s probably the first series we’ve read and discussed like this.”

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Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation

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