Title: One was a Soldier
Author: Julia Spencer-Fleming
This book must have ended up in my cart at an Audible sale, where they sell random books for $4. Apparently I was seduced by the blurb, which said something about One was a Soldier being a novel about soldiers trying to reintegrate themselves into civilian life after a tour of duty in Iraq. For the first half of the book, I was so caught up by the way Reverend Clare Fergusson battles with PTSD and substance abuse after spending a year flying helicopters. At the urging of a fellow veteran, she starts attending a support group and meets up with other people from the small upstate New York town where she lives who are also damaged from the way. Meanwhile, Clare's trying to decide if she's too damaged to marry her longtime boyfriend, police chief Russ Van Alstyne. This part of the book felt smart and realistic, and I was hooked just reading about Spencer-Fleming's characters and their struggles.
Then, about halfway through the book, one of the characters in the veterans group dies, and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a murder mystery. I usually scout out my books pretty well before reading them, but there seems to be a recurring theme in the books I've read over the last few weeks-- they're not what I expected them to be. I expected One was a Soldier to be straightforward contemporary fiction, and this soon became a whodunit (a very good one at that). Furthermore, it wasn't the first whodunit featuring Fergusson and Van Alstyne (I had sort of gleaned that earlier-- there were some references to things the two had done before Fergusson left for the war). In fact, One was a Soldier is the seventh Fergusson/Van Alstyne book in the series. Once I readjusted my expectations for the novel I had lots of fun with it. I'm sort of tempted now to go back and read the first six in the series (although I wonder if knowing that the two do live happily ever after will diminish the sexual tension that I expect are a driving force in the first six novels). Either way, this was both a smart book about a serious issue and an interesting mystery.