Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Book Review: One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

One Was a Soldier is the seventh in Julia Spencer-Fleming's excellent series featuring Clare Ferguson and Russ Van Alstyne. 
Clare is both an Episcopalian priest and a major in the National Guard. She returns home to Miller's Kill, NY from a tour in Iraq. Like the other soldiers returning from the war, her adjustment to civilian life is difficult. To add to the harshness of going from a war zone to peace, she became addicted to pills, uppers, downers, and pain killers, while in Iraq. Now that she's home, she can add alcohol to her list of addictions. Like every addict she's sure she can quit at any time, but it is never the right time. Her nightmares increase and her waking nightmares become more frequent.
Russ Van Alstyne is the Chief of Police in Millers Kill, and while concerned about Clare, has no idea how badly the war affected her. Clare chooses not to tell him about the effects of the war on herself and the other vets. When a former soldier is found dead in a swimming pool, Russ' focus is on the case - was it a suicide as it appears or was the woman murdered as Clare wants to believe.
Spencer-Fleming has returned to the quality of writing first found in the early books of this series. She adroitly handles each of the plot lines in the book and resolves each before the book ends.
The author has a rather large cast of characters, from the members of Clare's veterans' therapy group, to Russ' staff of police officers. Spencer-Fleming has carefully drawn each character so the reader has no difficulty keeping track of who's who. 
Most impressive, however, is how well Spencer-Fleming has sympathetically captured the inner workings of the vets' minds in describing to the reader the toll the war took on each of them. Anyone wanting to know how debilitating the war is on an individual should read this book and how the war makes our vets into walking war casualties. It is insightful, sympathetic, and informative.

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