Thursday, March 24, 2011

Julia Spencer-Fleming: ONE WAS A SOLDIER -- A Must-Read

Get used to feeling uncomfortable, threatened, and scared. Julia Spencer-Fleming's new and long-awaited book, ONE WAS A SOLDIER, is scheduled for April 12 release. Those who've read her complex series featuring Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and upstate New York police chief Russ Van Alstyne already know how deftly Spencer-Fleming braids together small-town life and serious crime, as well as the sacrifices people make in order to stay loyal to what they value. Through the earlier six books of this series -- which began with In the Bleak Midwinter -- Clare and Russ have also struggled with their love for each other, and in this volume, the two are headed toward a scheduled wedding at last.

But with Clare's fierce-toothed case of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as she arrives home from a tour as a helicopter pilot in Iraq -- she's a major in the National Guard -- and the buried landmines in Russ's police team, there's reason to doubt that the wedding will ever take place. Even the crimes taking place in Millers Kill, from gruesome deaths to malicious fraud, pit the two lovers against each other.

Spencer-Fleming develops a compelling picture of the ways war and death cast their shadows into the lives that continue -- but are never the same -- afterward. And even the simplest deceptions, like that of the doctor who assumes he can keep his own issues hidden ("Nobody can know about this."), have desperate and costly ramifications. Honoring her commitments to community, faith, fellow soldiers, and her heart is going to cost Clare dearly.

Yes, you'll enjoy this book more if you've at least read the volume before it, I Shall Not Want. But if you don't have time now for the earlier work, grab this book when it arrives in April, and make a commitment to yourself to catch up on the others later. It's a series worth reading and re-reading, from an author who knows how to raise the stakes and pay the price. You'll shelve ONE WAS A SOLDIER next to mysteries by Charles Todd and Jacqueline Winspear, for the insight, the psychological complexity, and the deft use of suspense and crime to drive a plot that never lets go.

1 comment:

Kit Minden, katepoet said...

A definite will read - thanks!