Clare Ferguson is more than she first appears. She is the Episcopalian priest for the small town of Millers Kill. She's also a returning Guard member. She's spent 18 months in Iraq, not as a chaplain but as an aviator, killing the insurgents. When she left, she left a lover, the chief of police.
Russ Van Alstyne loves Clare, offers her support in what she does but doesn't exactly believe in God. He's a Vietnam vet and a bit older than Clare. A couple of years ago his wife, Linda was killed coming home after spending a week in the Caribbean with her boss, and probable lover. Russ was faithful to Linda and mourned her lose. Now, he's looking forward to a life with Clare.
For various reasons, a group of recent veterans are meeting at the community center with a counselor. This group bond with each other though they are from different military branches, held different jobs and were vastly different ranks. Clare is a member as is one of Russ's deputies along with a local doctor and a young Marine who lost his legs. Rounding out this group is a young woman, Tally and the counselor, Sarah. Each is struggling to adjust to being home and adjust to the problems that followed them home. One will attempt suicide and another will accomplish it.
With that death comes a discovery no one expected. A million dollars was stolen while they were in Iraq. Russ insists the death is a suicide and that investigating the theft is not in his jurisdiction. The group of vets doesn't care. The one who died is one of them and you never leave anyone behind. With or without Russ's help, they are determined to find out what happened. With Clare leading the charge, can Russ keep his sanity?
When I saw this book come up for review, I hesitated. I loved the last book I read by Julia Spencer-Fleming and really did want to see what Clare was up to next. What caused the hesitation was the veteran's issue. Maybe like Clare, I don't want to face my problems. It's easier to ignore them or medicate them. But, Clare and Russ were too big of a draw, so I took this book to review.
Clare and Russ are awesome characters. They aren't perfect, they are real. Clare has a tendency to put her nose into business that isn't hers to get involved with it. She always has great intentions but Russ doesn't like that she puts herself in danger. Russ is dating a priest and doesn't believe in God. This makes for an interesting relationship. Just wait until Russ asks Clare to marry him and her very southern mother takes over the wedding plans!
The mystery of who stole the million dollars, how and who was all involved was outstanding. People of interest popped up everywhere. Two different military police officers were investigating but they sure weren't working together. What was their involvement in this? Could one of them be the mastermind? While Clare, Russ and the rest think they know who did what, Russ can't arrest anyone until they have proof. Besides, this is military/federal and Russ really isn't in charge.
The way Ms. Spencer-Fleming dealt with returning veterans was superb. Not all of it was super serious. I had to laugh when Russ thought "What jackass had decided it was a good idea to separate family members from soldiers they hadn't seen for eighteen months? When he'd come home from Vietnam, he just stumbled off a Pan Am flight from Hawaii. Yeah, it wasn't a hero's welcome, but at least he got to hug his mom and his sister, not stand at parade rest in front of an officer who sounded like he was running for Congress." Yeah Russ!!!
Each of the veteran's in this story were unique and yet the same. From Russ, who fought in Vietnam to Tally, who pushed papers in Iraq, each had their own experiences which shaped them. They were the same in that war did change them, and not always for the better. But they also live and believed the creed, no one left behind. As rag tag as this group was, they were in it until one of their own was taken care of as well as they were able. They would find out what happened, even when it meant doing things they weren't comfortable doing. That could be a good thing or it could be bad, regardless, they were doing it.
Military funerals are too common place right now. This is expressed by the fact that a bugler couldn't be found for an active duty service man's service and a high school student stepped in. The reality that there is a group that protests at military funerals was briefly mentioned. It's a shame another group that gets invited to many military funerals was not, the Patriot Guard Riders. These men and women will attend any service member's funeral, if invited, to hold a flag line and help the family in any way that they can.
Once again I was swept into Millers Kill and got involved with the people that live there. I didn't want to put this story down as it grabbed my interest and wasn't going to let it go. This story has such a realistic feel to it that you are sure that it's possible.
One Was a Soldier has fantastic characters; an interesting mystery and even a patriotic feel making this book a winner. Even if you've never read any of the other books in this series, you'll enjoy this one but don't be surprised if you fall in love with Clare. She's not your average priest!
Julia Spencer-Fleming’s debut novel, In the Bleak Midwinter, burst onto the mystery scene like a wild fire, snatching up almost every award imaginable. Since then, the series has only been picking up speed, the characters only digging deeper into our hearts. One Was a Soldier takes the suspense and heart-tugging to the next level, making for a truly devastating read.
At the Millers Kill Community Center, five veterans gather to work on adjusting to life after war. Reverend Clare Fergusson has returned from Iraq with a head full of bad memories she’s using alcohol to wipe out. Dr. George Stillman is denying that the head wound he received has left him with something worse than simple migraines. Officer Eric McCrea is battling to keep his constant rage from affecting his life as a cop, and as a father.
High school track star Will Ellis is looking for some reason to keep on living after losing both legs to an IED. And down-onher- luck Tally McNabb has brought home a secret—a fatal one. Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne just wants Clare to settle down and get married—to him. But when he rules Tally McNabb’s death a suicide, Clare sides with the other vets against him. Russ and Clare’s unorthodox investigation will uncover a trail of deceit that runs from their tiny Adirondack town to the upper ranks of the Army, and from the waters of the Millers Kill to the unfor - giving streets of Baghdad.
Fans of the series have been waiting for Russ and Clare to get together, and now that burgeoning relationship is threatened in this next tantalizing novel by Julia Spencer-Fleming.