I am currently binge-reading Spencer-Fleming's Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries. At book 6 I started buying them because I couldn't get them from the library fast enough.
"Out of the Deep I Cry" is book 3 and possibly my favorite so far, although I continue to be blown away. One of the things I appreciate is that Spencer-Fleming reinvents her structure from novel to novel. Book 3 jumps backwards and forwards in time, book 4 is structured by the Episcopal daily order of service, book 6 is organized into the church's yearly calendar, etc.
Here's why Spencer-Fleming is brilliant. She is a pro with foreshadowing and unexpected chapter-ending twists, which make her mysteries un-put-down-able. She has moments of surprising beauty [from "To Darkness and to Death"]:
[Clare] hiked over a rotting log, crushing coffee-brown pulp and meaty fungus beneath her boots. The smell, rich and wet, mingled with the odor of pine sap. A flash of movement caught her eye, and she whirled, just in time to see a gray fox vanish like smoke into the earth.
and moments of completely relatable ordinariness:
Clare slipped inside, closing the door with a careless kick and sinking into one of the old wooden chairs she had purchased in an attempt to warm up her all-white, straight-out-of-the-box kitchen. She sat for a moment, listening to the silence.
I love the kicking the door shut, because it's a detail a writer wouldn't have an obvious reason to use ("Clare opened the door and went inside"), but it queues the emotional backdrop for the scene coming up and at the same time gives Clare such "oh yeah I've done that" humanity.
Mostly I love the depths, the rawness, but with such sensitivity, with such moments of grace [from "All Mortal Flesh"]:
Suddenly, a black bubble of grief rose up out of his chest and he let out a barking sob. Clare took one hand off the wheel and held it out to him. He clutched it in a bone-cracking grip, his chest heaving as he fought to regain some control.
"Jesus," he said, when he could speak again. "Jesus Christ. I'm losing my mind."
Clare shook her head. Her eyes were wet, too, although from sympathy or from the pain where he was grinding her knuckles together, he couldn't tell. He released her hand.
"You're not losing your mind. Grief makes us all crazy at times. You read those Kubler-Ross theories and you think grief has all these recognizable levels, like going through school. Once you pass all the tests, you get to leave. But day to day, moment to moment, grief is more like..."
"Losing your mind?"
And these are characters who are fundamentally trying to help other people, whether that's in the capacity of chief of police or Episcopal priest. They are the ones going toward the disaster when everybody else is trying to get out, and they ask each other, "What can I do to help?" "What do you need?" Their identity as helpers and leaders is the foundation of their partnership - it is impossible not to care deeply about these characters.