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One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming

One Was a Soldier

by Julia Spencer-Fleming

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The mystery begins when a young woman dies, apparently a suicide. Russ's investigation turns up a complex story that ultimately involves just about everyone in the original community therapy group. There's definitely a mystery to solve, but the novel's focus is on the returning veterans.

If you've never read any of the books in this series, don't start with this book. Do yourself a favor and start with the first book in her series "In the Bleak Midwinter" and read all her books in order. While this book is a self-contained mystery, the growth and relationship of the lead characters is really a huge part of this series and you'll miss out on a large part of the enjoyment of this book if you start the series with this book. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
So far this has been my favorite book of the Russ Van Alstyne/Clare Fergusson mystery series. The story starts one day in September when we meet five veterans of the Iraqi War at a counseling session trying to make sense of what's happening to them. One of them is Reverend Clare Fergusson, who's having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after her 18 month deployment in Iraq.

Quite a bit of the first part of the book tells the stories of the five soldiers who have all been traumatized by that experience in his or her own way. One of them is a surgeon whose memory is posing a real problem; a bookkeeper who's juggling a husband, a boyfriend and a dangerous secret; a young double amputee afraid to release his pent up anger because he wants his parents to think he's okay; a respected cop whose temper poses hazards to both his family and his work life; and the helicopter pilot/priest who is using drink and drugs to maintain the appearance of "normal." They're all scared, they're all putting most of their energies into denying and hiding the truth about themselves and each is failing badly at it. When a member of the group apparently commits suicide, Clare recruits the group to convince Russ it must be a homicide.

Russ and Clare's relationship has deepened since her return but Russ, a recovering alcoholic himself, is concerned about Clare's substance reliance. She prides herself on her ability to cope with everything, but she can't seem to shake her nightmares about Iraq.

I really enjoyed this book. We hear each veteran's experience and become invested in their recovery. Their changed lives and the physical and emotional costs of the war make this a poignant and incredibly sad story. I highly recommend reading this compelling series in order for maximum enjoyment and character development.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
This seventh book in a wonderful series is quieter and much more personal than the rest have been, but it deals with some very serious subject matter. First and foremost is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Each of the five vets attending the group therapy sessions suffers from it, and each one's symptoms are different. Throughout the series, the Reverend Clare Fergusson has been a rock, someone others look up to in times of need. To have her suffer from PTSD and to show her coping with it in very inappropriate ways brings home how serious the disorder is. Readers have already grown to care deeply about Clare, so their sympathy and understanding is more or less guaranteed. By their very proximity, the other four veterans are brought in under the umbrella of understanding that has been extended to Clare.

The lives of the characters also progress in this book, including my favorite, Hadley Knox. Hadley's been thrown into an occupation that she thinks she is very ill-qualified for, but she's determined to do the best that she can for her children, and being a police officer brings in the money that she needs. What she can't see (and we can) is that she's better qualified than she thinks, and I always enjoy the scenes in which she appears.

With all this talk of PTSD and characters' personal lives, you might think that the mystery isn't up to the author's usual high standards. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are our favorite characters' lives moving forward, One Was a Soldier also has a first-rate investigation that kept me guessing throughout. One more book, and I'll be current... unless Spencer-Fleming manages to get one step ahead of me! ( )
  cathyskye | May 7, 2015 |
I received this book a few years ago along with and ARC I had one. I finally got around to reading this one. This is my second book in this series.

Reverend Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne are at it again. Clare just comes back from being deployed in Iraq. She has problems and joins a support group. Were you will meet more veterans. They are all suffering in there own way.

I enjoyed the story with the many different stories mixed in. Clare and Russ also get engaged in this book. It was interesting to see the wedding planning with Clare's mother from Virginia. One of the soldiers from her support group dies and her death is ruled a suicide. Clare cannot accept that and goes on a mission to find out the truth. ( )
  crazy4reading | Aug 7, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to get through this book without loosing interest. May had I read the series from the beginning I would have had more luck.
  fletch68 | Jun 17, 2014 |
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added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Jan 1, 2011)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Spencer-Fleming, Juliaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sarah Dowling's first thought, peering through the wire-reinforced glass of the community center's door, was that they were an odd group.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312334893, Hardcover)

On a warm September evening in the Millers Kill community center, five veterans sit down in rickety chairs to try to make sense of their experiences in Iraq. What they will find is murder, conspiracy, and the unbreakable ties that bind them to one another and their small Adirondack town.

The Rev. Clare Fergusson wants to forget the things she saw as a combat helicopter pilot and concentrate on her relationship with Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne. MP Eric McCrea needs to control the explosive anger threatening his job as a police officer. Will Ellis, high school track star, faces the reality of life as a double amputee. Orthopedist Trip Stillman is denying the extent of  his traumatic brain injury. And bookkeeper Tally McNabb wrestles with guilt over the in-country affair that may derail her marriage.

But coming home is harder than it looks. One vet will struggle with drugs and alcohol. One will lose his family and friends. One will die.

Since their first meeting, Russ and Clare's bond has been tried, torn, and forged by adversity. But when he rules the veteran's death a suicide, she violently rejects his verdict, drawing the surviving vets into an unorthodox investigation that threatens jobs, relationships, and her own future with Russ.

As the days cool and the nights grow longer, they will uncover a trail of deceit that runs from their tiny town to the upper ranks of the U.S. Army, and from the waters of the Millers Kill to the unforgiving streets of Baghdad.

One Was a Soldier is "a surefire winner" (Booklist) and "Outstanding" (Library Journal)--Julia Spencer-Fleming at her best.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:45 -0400)

At the Millers Kill Community Center, five veterans gather to work on adjusting to life after war. The Reverend Clare Fergusson has returned from Iraq with a head full of bad memories she's using alcohol to wipe out. Dr. George Stillman is denying that the head wound he received has left him with something worse than simple migraines. Officer Eric McCrea is battling to keep his constant rage from affecting his life as a cop, and as a father. High school track star Will Ellis is looking for some reason to keep on living after losing both legs to an IED. And Tally McNabb has brought home a fatal secret. Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne just wants Clare to settle down and get married to him. But when he rules Tally McNabbs death a suicide, Clare sides with the other vets against him. Russ and Clares unorthodox investigation will uncover a trail of deceit that runs from their tiny Adirondack town to the upper ranks of the Army, and from the waters of the Millers Kill to the unforgiving streets of Baghdad.… (more)

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