Kris Mcconville's Reviews > One Was a Soldier

One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming
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Apr 14, 11

Read from April 09 to 14, 2011

“One Was a Soldier” is the seventh book in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, set in the small town of Millers Kill, New York. This is the first book of the series that I have read, and I was so thoroughly impressed with Ms. Spencer-Fleming’s writing, I intend to read the first six books of the series, as I impatiently wait for the next book.
The Reverend Clare Fergusson is in happy, loving relationship with Russ Van Alstyne, the Chief of Police in a quaint, quiet, small town of Millers Kill, New York, in the Adirondacks. It has been an excruciatingly hard eighteen months for Russ, waiting for Clare to return from her deployment in Iraq. Although she returns physically sound, her emotional state is an entirely different matter. She joins a veteran’s group to work with a counselor to help her adjust back to civilian life.
The veterans group includes Clare, a combat pilot and Major in the Army National Guard; Dr. George Stillman (Trip), a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard; Willem Ellis, a Lance Corporal in the Marines; Mary McNabb (Tally) an army specialist; and Eric McCrea, a Military Police Sergeant in the Army National Guard. They meet weekly with a licensed clinical therapist, Sarah Dowling, as they attempt to rebuild their civilian life. Damaged by the war emotionally and some physically, each has something to hide. Clare is hiding the fact that it takes drugs and alcohol to stop the nightmares. Trip is hiding the fact that his traumatic brain injury is causing him to suffer short-term memory lapses. Will is hiding behind his double amputee status in his wheelchair, which will keep him living at home depending on others. Tally is hiding an affair in Iraq that has followed her home, and could derail her marriage. Eric is hiding his explosive anger after spending a year as an MP on prisoner detail, which could derail his marriage, and his job as a police officer.
As summer turns to fall, each week the members meet to discuss the various aspects of returning to civilian life: homecoming, work, personal relationships, and why they joined the therapy group. Through their answers, you learn a lot about this group of misfits.
When one of them dies in what appears to be an open-and-shut suicide according to Russ, Clare fights him tooth and nail that it had to be a homicide. She begs him to dig deeper into the investigation. When at first he refuses, she uses the camaraderie of the veterans group in an unorthodox investigation that threatens jobs, relationships and her own relationship with Russ to find the truth.
You can’t help but fall instantly in love with the vivid, complex characters created by Ms. Spencer-Fleming. This book is incredibly timely as our nation fights two wars. I would highly recommend this book to soldiers and their families at home. Ms. Spencer-Fleming eloquently captures the struggle a soldier faces, trying to fit their square-shaped soldier life (with memories of a war they can’t leave behind) into their round-shaped civilian life back home.

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