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One Was a Soldier by Julie Spencer-Fleming

I was impressed with the last Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery and was equally impressed with “One Was a Soldier.”

The story takes up where the last on left off, but 18 months later after Episcopalian priest, Clare Fergusson returns to St. Albans parish in Millers Kill, New York, from her deployment to Iraq as a helicopter pilot.  Clare suffers like most returning Iraqi War vets from a series of psychological issues and gets together regularly with other recent returnees in a group therapy that meets weekly.  She and Millers Kill police chief, Russ Van Alstyne, take up where they left off before her deployment, having realized that they are in love and want to be together.  The problems of being a small town clergywoman preclude much clandestine activity of a sexual nature, so they agree to get married.

One of the returning warriors is a woman who is implicated in the theft of a $1 million while serving as a bookkeeper stationed in Iraq. Her employer when she gets home is a defense contractor who does design and build projects for the Iraqi provisional government.  Her boss is a local resort entrepreneur, and someone Russ Van Alstyne hates because of the implications that this man may have been having an affair with his wife just prior to her accidental death.  Another BWI Opperman employee, another bookkeeper, also died in a car accident.  Now her replacement, the woman implicated for the theft, Tally McNabb, is found dead in her swimming pool.  It appears like a suicide to the police and the medical examiner– but is it?

There’s also some intrigue between the police, the military MPs and military financial people, as well as the FBI, in getting this case solved.  In the process, Clare learns a lot about herself and her initial denial about her addiction, and several other members of her veteran’s therapy group also find some healing.

This is a good romantic mystery.  The author has received awards and commendations from both romance writer and mystery writer groups.  The accolades are deserved.  It is easy to warm to the inhabitants of Millers Kill, and I plan to go back for many more visits.

Liz Nichols


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