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One Was a Soldier

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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 pilo 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.


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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 pilo 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.

30 review for One Was a Soldier

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    The title of this book was taken from an Anglican hymn -- a children's classic for All Saints' Day. Here's my book review, with apologies to Lesbia Scott: I sing a song about Russ and Clare, Patient and brave and true, Who toiled and fought and laughed and cried For a love they had cause to rue. And Clare was a soldier and also a priest, And Russ was a vet and a chief of police. And if you liked the first six books, then at least I think you'll like this one, too! They loved each other so dear, so dear, An The title of this book was taken from an Anglican hymn -- a children's classic for All Saints' Day. Here's my book review, with apologies to Lesbia Scott: I sing a song about Russ and Clare, Patient and brave and true, Who toiled and fought and laughed and cried For a love they had cause to rue. And Clare was a soldier and also a priest, And Russ was a vet and a chief of police. And if you liked the first six books, then at least I think you'll like this one, too! They loved each other so dear, so dear, And their love made them strong, Until someone died. Russ said, "Suicide!" But Clare thought that Russ was wrong. They had PTSD; they took down an MP; There was much DTR in the MKPD. They were all FUBAR by a war -- so, you see, You're going to like this one, too! They live not only in myst'ry books In the small town of Millers Kill. The world is full of cops and priests Who try to do Jesus' will. You can meet them in diners with cups of coffee, In copters, in cruisers, or in an MG -- For priests and cops are just folk like me. That's why you'll like this one, too!

  2. 4 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    This book, 7th in the Fergusson-Van Alstyne series, shines with sympathetic characters, compassionate insight, twisty mysteries--oh, and wedding planning. But I repeat myself... Spencer-Fleming's series reaches another apex with this book. By combining Clare's military experience with her calling as a minister, the plot reflects the difficulty of re-entry by a variety of combat pros into a different and far more sedate community. It's good to see these characters and issues addressed in a way that This book, 7th in the Fergusson-Van Alstyne series, shines with sympathetic characters, compassionate insight, twisty mysteries--oh, and wedding planning. But I repeat myself... Spencer-Fleming's series reaches another apex with this book. By combining Clare's military experience with her calling as a minister, the plot reflects the difficulty of re-entry by a variety of combat pros into a different and far more sedate community. It's good to see these characters and issues addressed in a way that is not pedantic, only entertaining. Highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lightreads

    I’m going to do this series a disservice and just babble on here at the current stopping point, instead of talking about each book individually. Even though the individual books are trying a lot of different and interesting things with structure, usually successfully. I read these in one sustained gulp through a work slump and summer insomnia. And I kept thinking confusedly “but I don’t like this sort of thing!” as I lunged desperately for the next book. “This sort of thing” being improbable serie I’m going to do this series a disservice and just babble on here at the current stopping point, instead of talking about each book individually. Even though the individual books are trying a lot of different and interesting things with structure, usually successfully. I read these in one sustained gulp through a work slump and summer insomnia. And I kept thinking confusedly “but I don’t like this sort of thing!” as I lunged desperately for the next book. “This sort of thing” being improbable series mystery with manufactured tension of the criminal and sexual sort and no soul. And I’m right, I don’t like that sort of thing. This is something else entirely. It’s contemporary fiction about two people who discover, beneath their age difference and the part where she’s a priest and he’s an atheist and their differing politics, that they are . . . you know. The big cheese. “The other half of me.” Except he’s married. And how they deal with that, while trying so hard to be ethical because that’s who they are, not just because they’re supposed to behave a certain way. And how they try to hold on to the amazing thing they’ve found. And how they fail. And how they deal. And spreading out from them, it’s about their entire town – her church and his police force – about a dozen marriages, and griefs, and mistakes, and how everyone is connected to everyone else, and just . . . stuff. She has a tendency to lean towards “issue” books. This most recent book is about returning Iraq veterans, and there’s a bit of ‘and your issue is drug addiction, and your issue is anger management, and your issue is your newly acquired disability.’ Except it’s also a book about help. About someone who has to this point been defined by what she most often says, “how can I help?” And how hard it is for her to be able to say, “now I need.” Simple stuff, prettily but simply written, and yet. Apparently I like this sort of thing. Oh, and there’s a murder mystery in each one but you know. Whatever.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    How I enjoyed re-reading this great book in one of my favorite series! I love being taken away to the Miller's Kill world of Reverend Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. This book had so much going on. The regular great cast of characters was present and part of a compelling storyline. The veterans in the support group, the mystery with its players, and the important events going on with Clare and Russ all add up to a fantastic story! Clare Fergusson is back from deployment, but her experience How I enjoyed re-reading this great book in one of my favorite series! I love being taken away to the Miller's Kill world of Reverend Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne. This book had so much going on. The regular great cast of characters was present and part of a compelling storyline. The veterans in the support group, the mystery with its players, and the important events going on with Clare and Russ all add up to a fantastic story! Clare Fergusson is back from deployment, but her experiences have taken a heavy toll, which she doesn't want to admit to herself or anyone else. She's not the only veteran in Miller's Kill who has been wounded emotionally or physically. Clare finds herself attending a veteran support group with an interesting cast of soldiers who are having their own issues adjusting back to their normal lives. Soon, Clare is wondering why one of the veterans in her group apparently killed herself, and she finds herself once again involved in an investigation with Russ and the Miller's Kill Police Department, this time over a large financial scandal. Meanwhile, she and Russ are figuring out what they want for their future. This was a wonderful book! I love Clare and Russ, and this one has some great moments between them. There were some sad parts revolving around some of the other characters. The ending of this one is quite thrilling!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I'm always impressed with this series because Spencer-Fleming continues to try new, interesting approaches to her books; the community of Millers Kills, especially, has filled out a great deal over the series. And here, we zero in on its returning veterans. The most central of which is, of course, Clare Fergusson, Episcopalian priest and weary helicopter pilot, who is coming back from Iraq to a finally-legitimate relationship with Millers Kill Police Chief Russ Van Alystne and whose happiness in I'm always impressed with this series because Spencer-Fleming continues to try new, interesting approaches to her books; the community of Millers Kills, especially, has filled out a great deal over the series. And here, we zero in on its returning veterans. The most central of which is, of course, Clare Fergusson, Episcopalian priest and weary helicopter pilot, who is coming back from Iraq to a finally-legitimate relationship with Millers Kill Police Chief Russ Van Alystne and whose happiness in that tentative security is deeply marred by PTSD flashbacks, nightmares, burgeoning alcoholism, and an acquired dependency on uppers and downers (or, as they were called in the "you sleep when we tell you to sleep" battle zone, go pills and no-go pills). She's trying to keep her trauma and addictions buckled tightly down. That puts her in a good company with the rest of her veterans' therapy group, which includes a doctor concealing a traumatic brain injury, a cop with newfound anger management problems, a former golden boy now missing his legs, a bookkeeper with a tangled overseas past, and so on. When one of these veterans dies and it looks like a suicide, Clare's inability to accept that--and what it might mean for her own tenuous hold on her life--drives her to new conflict with Russ. And right in the middle of the hectic onslaught of wedding planning. One Was a Soldier does a great job looking at the different kinds of trauma and secrets vets can come back with and doesn't come up with simplistic answers for how to deal with that. There's no easy way for any of these people to accept that their lives have been fundamentally changed by what they've seen and done and what's happened to them. In a way, the criminal conspiracy in one of their histories is the simplest to deal with: a mystery that can actually be solved. Everyone else just has to go on living, tentatively eking out a little more security day after day... or exploding. I think the mystery is a shade too elaborate in this one, but that overly complicated approach actually works thematically--the war is a clusterfuck that no one understands, a chaotic situation that some people are able to exploit, and its crimes can't be safely left overseas but always follow you home. The ongoing development of the Russ/Clare relationship is well-done, adding believable complications but letting those complications be a part of the relationship rather than a way to end it right as its started. So far, Spencer-Fleming is able to maintain love and tension within their commitment, not just their mutual yearning, thus pulling off a trick many writers--in books or TV--can't.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lyssa

    Those that know me, know that several authors' new releases cause me to whoop with delight. Julia Spencer Fleming's release “One Was A Soldier” did more than that. When I received my copy of the book I danced around the house. But while a fan of the Miller's Kill series I also wanted to review it. To look at it and see where it went right or wrong while trying to stuff the “happy, happy, joy, joy” monster back in place and to try and give you an honest, NO SPOILERS review of this latest offering Those that know me, know that several authors' new releases cause me to whoop with delight. Julia Spencer Fleming's release “One Was A Soldier” did more than that. When I received my copy of the book I danced around the house. But while a fan of the Miller's Kill series I also wanted to review it. To look at it and see where it went right or wrong while trying to stuff the “happy, happy, joy, joy” monster back in place and to try and give you an honest, NO SPOILERS review of this latest offering by one of my favorite authors. First for those new to the Miller's Kill Mysteries, or perhaps decided not to read them because they are 'mysteries' not “romance”, let me reassure you. This series puts romance on the back burner the way the Eve Dallas does. So if you enjoy excellent character development, moving story lines, and a romance that comes under the heading of mature. The main protagonists move in two very different worlds: one a police chief and the other a Priest (Episcopal), one a recovering alcoholic and the other enjoys a drink or three, one married and the other single. For all these differences these protagonists also share similarities, military backgrounds, a dedication to community, and a sense of personal justice. If you read “Priest” and thought these stories would be safe and not confront traditional values, then set that belief aside. Fleming has made her characters human with all the faults and flaws of any person could have.. But on to “One Was A Soldier”, and my attempt at a “Spoiler free” review. The latest book in the series deals with Rev. Clare Fergusson , Episcopal priest and Blackhawk pilot, returning to Miller's Kill from her tour of duty in Iraq. Her romantic interest, Police chief Russ Van Alstyne has been waiting patiently for her return over the past 18 months. But as the cover blurb reveals Clare brings home with her problems that she tries to hide. Fleming as an author constantly changes how she presents a story, and this book uses yet a new POV to tell the story. We see parts of the story, through the eyes of Sarah Dowling, a therapist who leads a support group for returning veterans. And with the exception of one character the long time reader of the series (like the rest of Miller's Kill) knows these veterans. It is actually the process of therapy that takes center stage of this book. The “Big Mystery”, while interesting, falls far short of the smaller mysteries shown by Fleming in her portrayal of returning injured veterans. From page one we are shifted between 'therapy session' to the reality of what these characters actually have occurring in their lives. We may be told “in therapy “what the characters will reveal to the world, but through Fleming's glimpses into what actually happened, we are shown that what someone reveals often falls far from the truth. And as a reader I held my breath and worried as each of these lives were revealed as these men and women try to put their lives together. In the process of returning to their 'normal' lives these soldiers find their wartime experiences interfering and when it costs the group one of their own, these men and women feel obligated to find the reasons behind the death. This of course is the “Big Mystery”, the one that will pit Clare against Russ as she takes up the banner seeking the truth. But in this book unlike many novels, I did not feel that Clare acted without thought. Impulsively, but with the new vulnerability Clare seems to have gained some acceptance that she can not do it all alone. So she relies on Russ, a visiting MP, and her support group, a military trained “Scooby Gang”. As with the earlier books, Fleming uses humor to balance the often gritty drama of her stories. In the prior books the citizens of Miller's Kill shook their heads at the 'adventurous' Rev Fergusson: in this one Clare and her cohorts attack the problem each using their own personal skills. Going against the Russ' wishes the group resolves they will “Leave no man behind”. And in that promise there is a lightness, the humor of embracing life over the trauma of war. In more than any of her other books each lighter moment takes on more value to the story line. By showing the lighter side of life, Fleming reminds the reader that if we look for it, laughter still exists for all. Blending in with the humor and drama are day to day occurrences. The two main protagonists, Clare and Russ are not children. Fifty-two and thirty nine years of age show up well with Fleming's writing. She portrays them with adult concerns, adult desires, adult reactions and conversations. Past relationships are not glossed over but bring with them both misunderstandings and frank communications. The positions of both Clare and Russ in Miller's Kill brings with them other concerns. Small town gossip, assumptions created by their positions rather than reality, and the stresses and strains of being adults don't hide in this novel, but are there for the reader to ponder. Finally my grade for this novel is A+. I stayed up all night reading it because I could not put it down. I called my Mother the next morning and told her she had to read it, I called friends to tell them, It simply was that good. Just so you know, the other authors I place in my “Must Read ASAP” list, never on a TBR pile because they transcend waiting are :J.D. Robb, Suzanne Brockmann, Lois Mcmasters Bujold, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kim Harrison, Naomi Novik and Ilona Andrews. While not all romance, they are all excellent writers known for crafting a good story with great characters. These are my Desert Island Keepers, of which Ms. Fleming is definitely a member of. .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found this most recent installment very disappointing. We see very little of St. Alban's or how Clare is readusting to life as a priest. St. Alban's feels very much like a backdrop, and one has to wonder how her parish fared while she was gone. How are they adjusting? We don't know. She and Russ rushing into marriage just didn't feel right. They've never really dated, and even though Linda is dead it all still has a clandestine ring to it. There were a lot of conversations they needed to have I found this most recent installment very disappointing. We see very little of St. Alban's or how Clare is readusting to life as a priest. St. Alban's feels very much like a backdrop, and one has to wonder how her parish fared while she was gone. How are they adjusting? We don't know. She and Russ rushing into marriage just didn't feel right. They've never really dated, and even though Linda is dead it all still has a clandestine ring to it. There were a lot of conversations they needed to have that we didn't see. I felt that the mystery was overdone and confusing. I didn't get to know Tally well enough to care about her. While the reality of returning veterans was well displayed--it felt more like an ensamble cast of people we didn't know well. Opperman is sinister, but not an especially interesting 'bad guy'. Hadley and Kevin? It just feels like a lazy "c" plot. And the end? Wow. So is the next book going to be about the repercussions of booze and drugs on a developing fetus?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Quillracer

    I’ve read all but one of the books in this series and that was an earlier one where Clare and Russ were still doing the ‘We should. We shouldn’t’ dance (so I don’t think I’ve missed anything important). I enjoyed the books but never felt that ‘turn the page’ urge I’ve felt with other authors. One Was A Soldier made me want to turn the page. I can’t imagine what people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan went through nor the toll it took on their minds and bodies, but I can imagine how hard it must I’ve read all but one of the books in this series and that was an earlier one where Clare and Russ were still doing the ‘We should. We shouldn’t’ dance (so I don’t think I’ve missed anything important). I enjoyed the books but never felt that ‘turn the page’ urge I’ve felt with other authors. One Was A Soldier made me want to turn the page. I can’t imagine what people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan went through nor the toll it took on their minds and bodies, but I can imagine how hard it must be to put that behind them and resume a normal civilian life. Spencer-Fleming did a great job of showing how hard it can be and the torments returning veterans deal with. I found myself rooting for Clare and the others in her support group to successfully make that transition more than I cared about the mystery. That mystery was complex and had the characters scrambling like crazy to solve it. Which brings me to my two beefs about this book, both of them minor. First, Spencer-Fleming spent too much time ‘setting the stage’ before we got to the crime that drove the main plot line of the story. While it was nice to see how things brewed up to that, I would have preferred a little faster trip there and some of the things that preceded it delivered a little later. Second, the way it was solved reminded me of the game Jenga, where the players have to remove blocks one at a time from a tower without causing the rest of the tower to collapse. That's very much the way things happened here. After just about zero progress through 7/8 of the book, all of a sudden, one piece makes the whole thing come tumbling down in almost no time. I would have much preferred to see the resolution built up a piece at a time (with some setbacks along the way) until the tower was completed. One other small complaint: I had trouble following the action and keeping track of the characters in some of the scenes, especially earlier in the book. I wasn't sure who was saying what and doing what to whom. And did anyone who read this book not see the twist at the end coming? Still, this is the best book so far in the series.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cacophony

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. First of all the good things about this book: it is well written. I think the author has an eye for detail and description. I was happy to see Russ and Clare get their wedding and possible baby. I am interested in Kevin and Hadley's romance (although I am getting frustrated with Hadley's flimsy excuses for rejecting Kevin). I also am interested in the basic premise of what happens to returning soldiers during war time. But... I am really loosing sight of what I enjoy about this series. I know I k First of all the good things about this book: it is well written. I think the author has an eye for detail and description. I was happy to see Russ and Clare get their wedding and possible baby. I am interested in Kevin and Hadley's romance (although I am getting frustrated with Hadley's flimsy excuses for rejecting Kevin). I also am interested in the basic premise of what happens to returning soldiers during war time. But... I am really loosing sight of what I enjoy about this series. I know I keep reading it because I want to find out what happens to Russ and Clare, and I used to enjoy the mystery aspect of these books. This installment, however, spent about 80% of the time exploring the soap opera grab bag of returning veteran afflictions. In fact, I recognized all of them from watching Army Wives. That story at least spread them out amongst several seasons. In particular I thought making Clare into a drug addict was extremely out of character. It would have been more tolerable if the story spent more time building up to the problem and then showing the struggle to get past it. Here it was just dabbled at, with too many characters and problems competing for attention. Too much breadth and not enough depth made the whole story fall flat. The central, suicide/theft/murder plot wasn't much of a mystery either. There were next to no clues to uncover because the reader only found out information along with the characters.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    I think this book brings us closer to the earlier books in the series, where the mystery is nearly as important as the personal relationships (unlike All Mortal Flesh and I Shall Not Want). The title is a great quote, though misleading because there are five soldiers involved, four of the five connected through earlier events in the series. (view spoiler)[It just now occurred to me, writing that, that Tally McNabb, the one who dies, is the only one who doesn't have the same connection. I'm not s I think this book brings us closer to the earlier books in the series, where the mystery is nearly as important as the personal relationships (unlike All Mortal Flesh and I Shall Not Want). The title is a great quote, though misleading because there are five soldiers involved, four of the five connected through earlier events in the series. (view spoiler)[It just now occurred to me, writing that, that Tally McNabb, the one who dies, is the only one who doesn't have the same connection. I'm not sure what to make of that, except that I think we get more emotional satisfaction through seeing the other four deal with their problems another way, since all of them also have to face their demons at some point. Eric, for one, may lose everything thanks to his inability to control his anger. (hide spoiler)] I'm used to Spencer-Fleming's darting around in time by now, and I think she does it to great effect here, foreshadowing just enough to bring past and present together and move forward. It's really hard to talk about this book without using a ton of spoilers, because for the first time we have Clare dealing with so many issues that arise out of where she's been and what she's been doing that may or may not be spoilery. I'm not sure how I feel about her suddenly beating herself up for not being Linda and not trusting Russ to love her for who she is, particularly since it's Opperman who planted that poisonous seed and she knows he's evil and trying to destroy her relationship. But it's possible that in the context of her own self-loathing (view spoiler)[for being an addict, and feeling out of control and ugly and unworthy of Russ and her congregation (hide spoiler)] it makes sense that she would latch onto that as an outlet for how she's feeling. I do like the fight she and Russ get into over the murder; it probably should have happened on an earlier case, given how frequently she pushes herself/is pushed into police business, but with the way their relationship has progressed, her doing so is different now, and it's something they have to work out--especially since Clare is proven wrong, and Russ admits he's overlooked something. I love how they interact now and how solid their relationship's becoming. Now, a lot of spoilers, and, big surprise, they're all about the characters because I still care more about them than the mystery: (view spoiler)[Clare coming onto Russ while they're driving down the freeway at, ultimately, 90 mph seems really out of character for her. I don't care how sex-starved you are after 18 months in Iraq, you don't lose all common sense. No, really, you don't. But I wonder if, in the context of Clare's addiction, this isn't indicative of her character after all--the need for a short-term solution, thinking no further than the next moment. I also wonder if I'm not constructing an explanation that has very little textual support, because the whole incident comes off as sounding like it's supposed to be funny, and really, vehicular homicide isn't. And Kevin. Oh, sweet Kevin Flynn. Hadley broke his heart and by extension mine, because he has turned out to be an amazing character, something I never would have guessed by who he was in the first books. It's interesting to see that Hadley's as messed up as any of the veterans, though in a different way, and I wish she could get past that to realize that she does care about Kevin, though possibly not as much as he cares for her. I am terrified that she's never going to get a second chance, but what can Kevin do, when he's shot down like that? I'd be angrier if I didn't feel a little sorry for her. I think I laughed my fool head off when Dr. Anne came into the rectory and encountered Russ in just his towel. The stuff of farce, yes, but so entertaining, particularly her reaction: "Oh. My. God." Clare's heart sank. "He is totally hot. Even with the bullet scars." "What?" "What is he, fifty? He's got to be close to my age, right?" She fanned herself. "Let me tell you, my husband doesn't look like that in a towel." And then her matter-of-fact grilling Clare on birth control. I do like Dr. Anne and I wish we saw more of her, and honestly, I think we probably should have, given how her son Will is so central to this book. Clare's addiction. I didn't think this would be drawn out more than one book, her keeping it a secret, I mean. But what really got me was Russ pointing out that he'd come back from Vietnam messed up and an alcoholic, which I think was the best possible thing he could have said to her. She loves him and doesn't think less of him for having been messed up, and she needs to stop thinking she has to be perfect for him or anyone else to love her. I think Spencer-Fleming portrayed her addiction very well, making her sympathetic and stupid at the same time, and I never felt irritated with Clare for not being able to talk about it to anyone. I'm also glad they didn't play out the whole "I'm not Linda" thing very long, which did irritate me for reasons stated above. And, most importantly: THEY GOT MARRIED!!!1!!1! I know, I know, it was always coming, but I love them both so much and I wanted them to be married and stuff and I realize I'm not rational about this series and I don't care. As a matter of personal faith, I believe very strongly in the rite of marriage, but it was just so beautiful how Clare "married" them the night before the wedding, because it felt so much like something they would both do. With all the pain and sorrow they've been through together, all those moments when loving each other brought them only heartache, it was so satisfying to see them finally joined legally the way they've always been emotionally and mentally. (hide spoiler)] In terms of the mystery, there were a lot of twists I didn't...not exactly didn't see coming, but which were unexpected in terms of what I thought was going on. Opperman's involvement in particular surprised me, but worse, I could see that there will be serious repercussions for Russ down the line, and I don't know that Russ realizes how much danger he's in from this very ruthless man. And maybe he ought to realize it, since he knows Opperman was responsible for two deaths at least in the course of getting what he wants. So I'm sort of looking forward to seeing what Opperman decides to do, if "looking forward to" means "anticipating horrible things happening to my favorite characters that may or may not screw them up permanently." Whether that happens in the next book or some future, as-yet-unwritten book, I can't guess. But it will happen. And one last spoiler, which, if you've read the book, you will know what it is without having to read it: (view spoiler)[I totally called it on Clare being pregnant. Seriously, they have that talk about not having kids, and how it's rational even though it feels like a loss--did anyone really think Julia "I like torturing my characters" Spencer-Fleming was going to let that go? I am SO glad I discovered (thank you again, Hallie) this series after book 8 was published, because I think I might have died if I'd read that last line and not been able to find out immediately what happens next. Okay, for one thing, it's going to be pretty damn obvious that Russ and Clare have been screwing around long before the wedding, so I wonder what her parish/deacon/bishop are going to think about that. But Russ was right about how hard it will be on the kid having a dad who's that old, and Clare was right about her pastoral responsibilities--this is going to be a major adjustment for both of them. I can't imagine how all the people reading this when it was published in 2011 felt, having to wait 2+ years for the next one. (hide spoiler)]

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kat Collins

    (This is a review of the series as a whole). In the span of three weeks, I’ve finished an entire series of 7 novels. Call me crazy or obsessed, but I couldn’t put them down. And now I’m waiting impatiently for the next one! (It’s not out yet…come on Julia…write faster!) I’m always struck by a series of books where I can fall in love with the characters, ride along with them on their adventures, and feel invested in every nuance and facet of their lives. The Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne myster (This is a review of the series as a whole). In the span of three weeks, I’ve finished an entire series of 7 novels. Call me crazy or obsessed, but I couldn’t put them down. And now I’m waiting impatiently for the next one! (It’s not out yet…come on Julia…write faster!) I’m always struck by a series of books where I can fall in love with the characters, ride along with them on their adventures, and feel invested in every nuance and facet of their lives. The Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming is captivating, if a bit unconventional (which is why I love it, beyond the brilliant writing). These books are an excellent example of how to write a series and continue stories and themes. Clare Fergusson is an single, ex-Army pilot who becomes an Episcopalian priest in the small town of Millers Kill, New York, deep in the Adirondack Mountains after her sister dies from cancer. She has a knack for getting herself into all kinds of compromising and perilous situations. Some call it fearlessness…others call it acting without thinking. But the overall theme of Clare is that she cares about others, to the point that she will do whatever she has to do to help them, even if it means sacrificing herself. Of course, sticking her nose in investigations by the Millers Kill Police Department runs her into the Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne who is also ex-Army. In the first novel, “In The Bleak Midwinter,” newly-ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation. Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne , in particular, doesn’t know what to make of her, or how to address “a lady priest” for that matter. The last thing Clare needs is trouble, but that is exactly what she finds in every novel. As the days dwindle and the attraction grows between the novice priest and the married police chief, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against the treacherous mysteries of the Adirondack Mountains. The characters are fully and believably drawn and you will feel like they are your old friends. I admit, when I finished the last book, One Was a Soldier, I felt bereft like my dear, close friends had all gone on vacation and left me behind. In each book, Spencer-Fleming tackles a variety of hard-core social issues such as discrimination and hate crimes against Hispanics and gays, environmental issues, Autism and possible side effects of vaccinations, the diphtheria epidemic, immigration and illegal aliens, teenage mothers, PTSD and other effects from returning soldiers, and more. Each topic is handled with a deftness and delicate hand and not necessarily the outcome you would expect. The books do have a theme of faith and spirituality running through them, but it is not overt or in-your-face. It is as much as part of the characters as the rest of the story. I’ve read many Christian-based novels and cringe when it becomes a trite, clichéd, battering-over-the-head, novel of religion. Spencer-Fleming doesn’t come across that way at all. Actually, with Clare Fergusson as the main character and example of faith, we discover that we can be messy Christians and it’s okay. A very refreshing, heartening, and enlightening point of view. (On a side note, if you’re interested in a deeper understanding of a “messy Christian,” check out Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli.)Another reviewer pointed out that for Clare being ex-Army and a priest, both professions which have a multitude of rules and regulations, she acts like an out-of-control trouble maker. They felt that this was inappropriate and unbelievable for her type of character. I have to say, I disagree. We are all human and we all make mistakes and do things that we shouldn't. Even people in those positions are not perfect and struggle with their humanity. Clare, to me, is fully human in all her actions, words, and deeds. She doesn't want to ruin Russ's marriage. In fact, she tries to distance herself from Russ to break the bond between them. I admire her tenacity, fearlessness, and desire to help others even at the expense of herself. Isn't that what a priest/pastor and church should be? I struggle with anyone who puts these types of people on a pedestal and expect them to be "perfect." It doesn't happen and you will be disappointed again and again. If you’ve never read any of the books in this series, 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 each 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 out-of-order.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    Oh wow, the wait was worth it. This 7th book in the series featuring Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Millers Kill Chief of Police Russ van Alstyne is an amazing, emotional roller-coaster ride. I will confess up front that I went through half a box of tissues. Clare is now safely home from the war zone and trying to pick up the pieces of her life, including her romance with Russ. However, she brings home some really heavy emotional baggage that leads her to join a therapy group, with several Oh wow, the wait was worth it. This 7th book in the series featuring Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson and Millers Kill Chief of Police Russ van Alstyne is an amazing, emotional roller-coaster ride. I will confess up front that I went through half a box of tissues. Clare is now safely home from the war zone and trying to pick up the pieces of her life, including her romance with Russ. However, she brings home some really heavy emotional baggage that leads her to join a therapy group, with several other returning veterans. Long time readers of the series will recognize several of the group's members. The leader, Sarah, is new as is one of the members, Mary 'Tally' McNab. McNab is the lynch pin of the mystery. We meet her in a bar fight at the beginning of the book. Her husband is mixing it up with an outsider who came to town looking for Tally (seems they had served together in Irag(and had a fling)). The stranger shows up in town some weeks later, still hoping to meet up with Tally and the question then becomes why is he so insistent? What does he want with her? Seems our Tally is possibly mixed up in some shady dealings involving our favorite sleasy businessman, Opperman, and a good deal of cash. When it appears that Tally has committed suicide, the therapy group(especially Clare), won't accept the verdict and starts doing their own digging. The mystery plot is very good, but the strength of this book is in the lives of our returning veterans--that's where I needed the tissues. Clare is just as damaged as those who came back with physical injuries and watching all of them work their way towards recovery is just gut-wrenching and up-lifting. And watching Clare and Russ interact is just as emotional. In scenes not involving our returning vets, we catch up on the non-romance between young Kevin Flynn and Hadley Knox. By the end of the book, I wanted to smack Hadley upside the head with a 'Clue-by-4'. This is definitely one plot thread that is not yet resolved. Great book. And, to cap things off, there's a jaw-dropper of a last scene, which makes me want the next book right now.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Julia Spencer-Fleming does a great job of character development. That's one of the reason I've been enjoying this series. She also develops plots that are timely--that is they pertain to situations that are currently topics of life in the U.S. In this book, Clare has returned from her deployment in Iraq, and is trying to settle back into her life as a Priest. She and several other veterans of the town are participating in a group sharing their problems of returning to civilian life and trying to Julia Spencer-Fleming does a great job of character development. That's one of the reason I've been enjoying this series. She also develops plots that are timely--that is they pertain to situations that are currently topics of life in the U.S. In this book, Clare has returned from her deployment in Iraq, and is trying to settle back into her life as a Priest. She and several other veterans of the town are participating in a group sharing their problems of returning to civilian life and trying to forget the horrors they had to deal with. The mystery concerns these people as one of the group is found dead. Russ believes it is a suicide, but Clare and the vets disagree. I am glad to say that Russ and Clare are finally married. So there are happy parts of the book. I enjoy this series, but recommend that you read them from the beginning as each book builds on characters and events in earlier books.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cory

    I was so excited about this book, but I felt like it was a huge departure from the rest of the series. In the other books, the mysteries tend to be a bit sloppy or overwrought but the personal tension between Clare and Russ is SO PALPABLE that it doesn't matter. In this book, the mystery came around better but I could barely tell Russ and Clare were in love. Also, I know Clare was having a hard time with PTSD, but this whole thing about, "Russ loved Linda, I'm no Linda"? ?! Where was she for the I was so excited about this book, but I felt like it was a huge departure from the rest of the series. In the other books, the mysteries tend to be a bit sloppy or overwrought but the personal tension between Clare and Russ is SO PALPABLE that it doesn't matter. In this book, the mystery came around better but I could barely tell Russ and Clare were in love. Also, I know Clare was having a hard time with PTSD, but this whole thing about, "Russ loved Linda, I'm no Linda"? ?! Where was she for the first 5 books where it was like, "We're so in love, and I've never felt this way about my wife but I can't get a divorce"? the WHOLE POINT of the first 5 books was that he loved her better than his wife. The unlikelihood of someone as smart as Clare conveniently forgetting that detail of 4 years of her life took a lot of the tension out of her emotional arc for me. I mean, I liked the book, I just didn't feel like it packed the same emotional wallop as the others. I have rooted SO HARD for those two, I wanted more gratification.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    I used to really enjoy this mystery series, but Spencer-Fleming seems to have turned this one and the last one into steamy romance novels, which just distracts from the characters and plot, especially Clare's work as a priest, which was one of the appeals of the series early on. Maybe the sex will settle down in the next book. I do like that this book tackles post-traumatic stress disorder and the difficulties in returning home from battle. But some of the book I just wanted to smack Clare for h I used to really enjoy this mystery series, but Spencer-Fleming seems to have turned this one and the last one into steamy romance novels, which just distracts from the characters and plot, especially Clare's work as a priest, which was one of the appeals of the series early on. Maybe the sex will settle down in the next book. I do like that this book tackles post-traumatic stress disorder and the difficulties in returning home from battle. But some of the book I just wanted to smack Clare for her dishonesty with herself and with Russ.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Killed time on the bus, but I feel like the author can't handle not having a troubled, potentially star-crossed lovers, so as one couple gets together she drives others apart...cheap trick

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hallie

    [GR ate my review, only partly saved from Drive, so apologies if there are more typos than normal.] It’s pretty clear by now that my “Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alystyne novel” reviews are anything but pretty, and this will be no exception. (It’s not really even a “review”, as it’s too personal.) Safe with the usual caveats, and then, there’s the title, which gives a massive hint. Anyway, after the satisfying climax (pause for me to snigger immaturely) of I Shall Not Want, and the less disturbing [GR ate my review, only partly saved from Drive, so apologies if there are more typos than normal.] It’s pretty clear by now that my “Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alystyne novel” reviews are anything but pretty, and this will be no exception. (It’s not really even a “review”, as it’s too personal.) Safe with the usual caveats, and then, there’s the title, which gives a massive hint. Anyway, after the satisfying climax (pause for me to snigger immaturely) of I Shall Not Want, and the less disturbing than it might well have been sucker-punch from the author that followed it, I really thought I was in a good place for One Was a Soldier. Melissa put it beautifully in her review, and I was quite looking forward to reading the next book in the series because the author hadn’t dragged out a story arc I’d been expecting to run for many more books. Of course I should have realised that Spencer-Fleming would be quite capable of giving massive doses of readerly woe from another direction, and she did. This is not supposed to be an easy read - the soldier of the title (although there’s more than one) has seen very recent active duty, rather than having served in World War 2, or even Vietnam, like Russ. Quite aside from the intended emotional wallop though, this one got me on a raw spot that’s around some of the most terrifying and painful experiences of my life. I’m going to be doing my usual, saying as much as I can outside of spoiler cuts, but in this case, I’ll label two different types of spoiler - because my reviews of these books just aren’t ridiculous enough already. Those are ones that are spoilers for those who have read up to book 7, and those who haven’t read 5 & 6. Before I can say anything about the good and the painful, though, I have to say that I absolutely hated a scene I’d read in the teaser at the end of book 6, and in Letters to a Soldier as well. It’s something that leads to a character, who should know better (as should anyone on the road in any capacity) driving at 90 miles an hour, and not even realising it. That’s far more than bad enough, but there’s a passenger in the front not wearing a seat belt. This is a safe-if-you’ve-read-6 spoiler (view spoiler)[Russ has picked Clare up from the base when she’s just back from Iraq and she’s hell-bent on seducing him as he drives down the highway. He’s even said to have gone across the divider before the state cop pursues him, so chances of his killing people in other cars is high, but I kept thinking how he’d feel if he crashed and killed Clare. (hide spoiler)] I have been said to be judgmental at times, and some of those times I’ve been doing the saying, but I don’t care how judgmental it seems - I think this type of recklessness and endangering lives is immoral. Right. It had to be said. Now, the book lost a few points from me for the unlikeliness of there being no fewer than five people from tiny Miller’s Kill returning from military duty in Iraq at essentially the same time, in order for them to be in a support group for veterans. Not only is the number too high, but I was a bit annoyed by the way the five - or at least four of the five - displayed a rather handy spread of coping mechanisms gone wrong for dealing with PTSD. Each individually was quite realistic, but it was a bit too neat. I was finding it distressing but not realising that it was more than we were supposed to be distressed, until I copped on to the fact that I’d been in no fewer than five relationships where someone very close to me was using one of those become-toxic means of coping with their (not PTSD, but variety of other) problems. It was pretty gut-wrenching reading anyway, safe-for-6-readers again (view spoiler)[ as Clare was one of the five in the support group, and she’s in deep, deep trouble (hide spoiler)] , but for me it was only just bearable. That said, I think I liked the mystery itself okay, although it had a few moments we’ve probably seen enough already. For example, Clare going off at Russ for doing a poor job, thinking she knows more than he does, and his getting frustrated at her continued insistence that she’s going to go out recklessly and sort things out (thereby allowing her to bypass the real problems that need addressing). Kevin continued his stepped-up awesomeness level, only-safe-for-7-readers (view spoiler)[ though I was disappointed at Hadley’s refusal to consider giving them a try. I give her a lot of slack for poor choices in the past making her untrusting and cynical, but ANYONE can see Kevin’s a keeper at this point and her lying to him and shutting him down made me sad and cranky. I hope their story isn’t over though! (hide spoiler)] . I liked the counsellor, Sarah, although she wasn’t given that huge a part. Her reaction to something that happened was very realistic and I liked the way she kept on going despite feeling like a failure. 7-safe-only: (view spoiler)[When Willem Ellis made his suicide attempt, and she thought it was utterly her fault, I loved what Tally said to her. And then when Tally actually did kill herself, it was so sad. (hide spoiler)] It also worked very well to see the five members of her group from an outside, clinical perspective. Rest of this is only safe for those who’ve read 7. (view spoiler)[In this I really think I *am* being a judgmental cow, but I was slightly disappointed in the direction of the story with respect to Clare’s drug and alcohol addiction. I was glad the alcohol was addressed as it had been a lurking worry since book 2. But I kept thinking that Clare shouldn’t have started taking the pills in Iraq - anyone can get addicted and nobody should be judged for their difficulty in kicking an addiction, but she knew. She had counselling training herself, and -- well, I even wanted her to be fighting the good fight, and protesting the fact that they WERE handing out meds so freely in the combat zones, rather than taking them because they're available. It’s beyond wrong for the military to be so lax about allowing personnel to self-medicate instead of getting psychological help before a problem becomes a problem plus an addiction. I also didn’t like the plot-line because it left Clare in a place that she shouldn’t have been in with respect to Russ’s feelings for her. It almost became Rebecca-esque at times, with Clare once saying she’s failing at being the second Mrs Van Alstyne before they’re even married. It was compounded by the problem I had with 6, of Russ’s never getting the moment to acknowledge Linda’s betrayal of the marriage, so Clare’s insecurity about his truly being in love with her was an unnecessary additional woe, I thought. Russ is mostly great in this book again, though, so that made me happy. I didn’t much like the bit of game-playing about whether or not they would be doing anything wrong by having a sexual relationship - from Clare’s perspective, that is. It seemed to flip back and forth between “it’s fine as long as nobody finds out” to “it’s fine because we’re committed, but we need to be discreet” to “nope, it’s not on”. However, I LOVED what Clare says about the sacrament of marriage being created by the couple, when Clare finally tells Russ how much trouble she’s in, the night before their wedding. (hide spoiler)] All in all, not my absolute favourite in the series, but still mostly keeping me in the happy place about the thing that keeps us all reading these books anyway… And some very moving depictions of people trying to cope with a return to “normal” life, after the horror of combat.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna Elliott

    I received a copy of this book as part of the early reviews program (yay! my first time EVER winning something!) and was thrilled because this was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year. I've read (and loved!) all the previous books in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/ Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, so my expectations were high. And One Was a Soldier didn't disappoint, I absolutely loved it. I Shall Not Want, the previous book in the series, ended with Clare and Russ finally I received a copy of this book as part of the early reviews program (yay! my first time EVER winning something!) and was thrilled because this was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year. I've read (and loved!) all the previous books in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson/ Russ Van Alstyne mystery series, so my expectations were high. And One Was a Soldier didn't disappoint, I absolutely loved it. I Shall Not Want, the previous book in the series, ended with Clare and Russ finally, finally able to declare their love for each other, and then--on a cliffhanger note--Clare's army unit is called up and she's sent of to serve in Iraq. One was a Soldier picks up a year and a half later when Clare returns, struggling to cope with the psychological trauma of her time at war. The book alternates points of view between Clare, Russ, and the members of Clare's support group, all likewise veterans struggling to cope with physical and psychological trauma of their own. Those hoping for a classic 'whodunnit' kind of mystery may be disappointed, because I will say that the mystery is a bit incidental to the whole of the book; the main focus is really on the lives of the returning veterans, and Russ and Clare's deepening relationship as Clare struggles with alcohol and amphetamine addictions. But that was fine with me--much as I love a good mystery--because the story is so very, very well crafted, the characters so intimately and vividly drawn. Julia Spencer-Fleming is one of the absolute best at crafting believable, vivid characters--characters you feel you know, because they feel as real as anyone you might run into at the grocery store. She steps effortlessly into the heads not just of Russ and Clare, but of MP Eric Mcrea, who struggles to control the anger he's brought back with him from the war, of Hadley Knox, young single mother and reluctant police officer . . . all the characters come to life under her touch. One Was a Soldier is a very ambitious book; Julia Spencer-Fleming tackles some incredibly challenging themes and explores multi-faceted questions and issues that confront her characters. I would almost say that I wish the book could have been a little longer so that each character's journey could have had a bit more 'screen time'--but that's only because the book is SO good that I would have liked it to go on and on. If you've never read Spencer-Fleming before, I would say definitely don't start here, go back and read the series from the beginning, starting with the first book In the Bleak Midwinter. But know that once you work your way through the earlier books up to this one, you have an absolute tour de force of a novel in store for you. No spoilers, but the ending to this one was absolutely perfect--it made me so happy, while at the same time making me long for the next book in the series.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Spectacular! Great to end my catching up in the series with a bang. Now, unfortunately, I have to wait until November for the next installment. This wait is made slightly more bearable by the upcoming Bouchercon, where I will be able to meet Julia Spencer-Fleming and gush in person to her about her novels. One Was a Soldier deals with Clare's return to Millers Kill after an 18-month deployment to Iraq. She is among several others who are returning to the small town, including a deputy of Police C Spectacular! Great to end my catching up in the series with a bang. Now, unfortunately, I have to wait until November for the next installment. This wait is made slightly more bearable by the upcoming Bouchercon, where I will be able to meet Julia Spencer-Fleming and gush in person to her about her novels. One Was a Soldier deals with Clare's return to Millers Kill after an 18-month deployment to Iraq. She is among several others who are returning to the small town, including a deputy of Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne's. Clare and Russ are ready to pick up their relationship where it left off before her absence, a point at which they had finally become intimate. However, as Clare and the other returning soldiers know, they are not the same people who left the idyllic small town. A group is formed at the community center for the vets, where they form a bond and try to find their way back to the lives they had left. A death in that group is ruled suicide by Russ, as the evidence is overwhelmingly directed toward that ruling. Clare disagrees and is determined to uncover what really happened to her fellow comrade. Even though Clare and Russ are at odds over this death, their relationship is progressing, something that should please readers of the entire series. This book is full of surprises, and the resolutions and ending deliver big time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I'm all caught up and now I have to wait and wait for a new one. (It comes out Tuesday, haha.) (view spoiler)[The world has expanded so much in these books and, on the one hand, that's kind of cool, but, on the other, I do feel like I'm missing Clare and Russ a lot. And oh gosh. I was so sure something would come up and they wouldn't get married. SHIP TRAUMA, YOU KNOW? Anyway, I think it was definitely the right time for them to get together, but the books have lost something, too. I think it mig I'm all caught up and now I have to wait and wait for a new one. (It comes out Tuesday, haha.) (view spoiler)[The world has expanded so much in these books and, on the one hand, that's kind of cool, but, on the other, I do feel like I'm missing Clare and Russ a lot. And oh gosh. I was so sure something would come up and they wouldn't get married. SHIP TRAUMA, YOU KNOW? Anyway, I think it was definitely the right time for them to get together, but the books have lost something, too. I think it might be what I said at the beginning, that it just feels like they aren't around as much. You don't have to make them go away just 'cause they're together now! Okay, Hadley/Kevin. I LOVED that he came back and said, "No means no. I'm sorry I didn't respect that." Except . . . I feel like the BOOK isn't respecting that. Because she's still saying no, but she doesn't mean it. So what am I, the reader, supposed to do with that? I'd like to see them together, but then does that mean I'm rooting for Kevin to ignore her "no"? I don't think so. I guess I'm rooting for Hadley to change her mind and take the step all on her own. (hide spoiler)]

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I waited for this book for a very, very long time. I'm happy to say that the wait was worth it. This story was different from the action-packed mysteries of the others in the series. The actual "mystery" of this seemed almost behind-the-scenes. The real drama came from the damaged soldiers returning to Millers Kill and trying to get their lives back. Julia Spencer-Fleming did her usual excellent job of presenting the characters we know and love and care about. The banter wasn't as funny as usual I waited for this book for a very, very long time. I'm happy to say that the wait was worth it. This story was different from the action-packed mysteries of the others in the series. The actual "mystery" of this seemed almost behind-the-scenes. The real drama came from the damaged soldiers returning to Millers Kill and trying to get their lives back. Julia Spencer-Fleming did her usual excellent job of presenting the characters we know and love and care about. The banter wasn't as funny as usual, but then, no one was feeling especially chipper in this go-round. Events were wrapped up to my satisfaction, and the cliff-hanger at the end will have me now waiting restlessly for the next installment. I just hope it won't take another 18 months! One reason this series is so good is because Millers Kill is written as a real place. When I read these books, it's like I'm really strolling down the streets, watching Russ hop in his truck and Clare rushing out of St. Alban's. It's easy to feel connected to the characters when you feel like you're right there with them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dorie

    Although I did enjoy reading this book, I had a lot of problems with it. After reading and enjoying the previous six novels in the series, this is the first one I can remember where Claire annoyed me. Her denial and obstinacy in failing to deal with her own problems, while quick to point out and deal with other people’s, was annoying in itself. But deliberately going behind Russ’s back and interfering with a police investigation (and taking a malicious glee in doing so) angered me and made me lo Although I did enjoy reading this book, I had a lot of problems with it. After reading and enjoying the previous six novels in the series, this is the first one I can remember where Claire annoyed me. Her denial and obstinacy in failing to deal with her own problems, while quick to point out and deal with other people’s, was annoying in itself. But deliberately going behind Russ’s back and interfering with a police investigation (and taking a malicious glee in doing so) angered me and made me lose respect for her character. The fact that she never did apologize and admit she was wrong just made it worse. I admire the author for her obvious attempt to honor soldiers that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. That said, I think maybe she was concentrating so hard on doing that she compromised the mystery itself and some character consistency. The set up to the actual mystery seemed to take forever to reach. While the resolution to the crime was satisfying, the eventual outcome was not and kind of made me think the whole investigation had been a waste of time.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Julia Spencer-Fleming pulls out all the stops with this story, and it pays off. It takes place a year and a half after I Shall Not Want, and changes abound for major and minor characters. The most significant, of course, lie in Russ and Clare's relationship. And Clare has issues to deal with as a result of her posting to Iraq. The main plot, in fact, circles around the veterans' support group Clare joins, and a series of events that spark her curiosity (and help her shut out the pain and fear sh Julia Spencer-Fleming pulls out all the stops with this story, and it pays off. It takes place a year and a half after I Shall Not Want, and changes abound for major and minor characters. The most significant, of course, lie in Russ and Clare's relationship. And Clare has issues to deal with as a result of her posting to Iraq. The main plot, in fact, circles around the veterans' support group Clare joins, and a series of events that spark her curiosity (and help her shut out the pain and fear she's brought back with her from her tour of duty). The book deals with the aftermath of war in all its guises, and offers hope without triteness or cheap resolutions. One brief exchange, between Russ and Clare near the end of the novel, encapsulates perfectly why I love these stories so much: "Her eyes burned. 'I don't deserve you.' 'This priest once told me we don't get what we deserve, thank God. We get what we're given.'" And I'm really, really glad that Spencer-Fleming has given us these novels.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

    This was by far the heaviest book in the series so far - like a giant black cloud over the first half of the book - as Clare returns from war and faces PTSD and addiction. I'm pretty amazed by how well the author seemed to get into the head of Clare and the other soldiers in the story as they deal or don't deal with what happened to them in Iraq. The mystery doesn't really even begin properly until the second half, which was about the time the story lightened up a bit (for which I'm thankful) as This was by far the heaviest book in the series so far - like a giant black cloud over the first half of the book - as Clare returns from war and faces PTSD and addiction. I'm pretty amazed by how well the author seemed to get into the head of Clare and the other soldiers in the story as they deal or don't deal with what happened to them in Iraq. The mystery doesn't really even begin properly until the second half, which was about the time the story lightened up a bit (for which I'm thankful) as Russ, Clare and Clare's veteran support group tries to figure out who killed their fellow vet as well as to uncover some military secrets. I'd love to know how Spencer-Fleming researched this novel... Really like the developing story with Hadley and Kevin, too. The author does a great job of depicting her characters and letting them grow and change in fairly realistic ways. All in all another great chapter in this series. Super bummed that there's only one more left (for now.)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Actual rating 2.5 stars The story took a very long time to build and there was too much background on the characters. Clare was just annoying most of the time. She shared confidential police information with her therapy group. You would think that, as a priest, she would know better. (And shouldn't she have enough to do in her own job?) I know it's a minor point, but George Stillman is constantly using his Palm Pilot. I had to check the publication date and I really don't think that anyone was s Actual rating 2.5 stars The story took a very long time to build and there was too much background on the characters. Clare was just annoying most of the time. She shared confidential police information with her therapy group. You would think that, as a priest, she would know better. (And shouldn't she have enough to do in her own job?) I know it's a minor point, but George Stillman is constantly using his Palm Pilot. I had to check the publication date and I really don't think that anyone was still using Palm Pilots in 2011. The sections where Russ is the primary character were enjoyable and that helped to boost my rating a bit. I found the narration on the audio version to be rather off-putting.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Drianne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Ugh. I barely finished this one, and I think I am officially done with the Reverend Clare and Chief Russ now. I found this book trite, emotionally manipulative, and dull. I am still angry that the author sent Clare back into the army (as a pilot, no less) despite her having a clear duty to her parishioners, and that she would bring her back so battered makes little sense to me. I'm tired of hearing about how only Clare and Russ understand one another because they're "The Same" (no, they're reall Ugh. I barely finished this one, and I think I am officially done with the Reverend Clare and Chief Russ now. I found this book trite, emotionally manipulative, and dull. I am still angry that the author sent Clare back into the army (as a pilot, no less) despite her having a clear duty to her parishioners, and that she would bring her back so battered makes little sense to me. I'm tired of hearing about how only Clare and Russ understand one another because they're "The Same" (no, they're really not), and the character here was pretty unrecognizable to me. Yes, war changes people, I get it. But I'm not sure why the author wanted to destroy a pretty admirable character in order to make that point. I'm done; I hope the author is as well.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mimi Smith

    3.5 stars I really loved this whole series. Great mysteries, characters and such emotions... Just wanted to put up this quote: “I want to be married because I like those easy-to-understand, boring definitions. Husband. Wife. I want to be married because life is short, and I want to spend whatever I have left of it with you, every day, every night. I want to be married so that everything I have and everything I am is yours, and everything of you is mine. And I want to be married so I can lay you out 3.5 stars I really loved this whole series. Great mysteries, characters and such emotions... Just wanted to put up this quote: “I want to be married because I like those easy-to-understand, boring definitions. Husband. Wife. I want to be married because life is short, and I want to spend whatever I have left of it with you, every day, every night. I want to be married so that everything I have and everything I am is yours, and everything of you is mine. And I want to be married so I can lay you out on the dining room table if I feel like it and have you six ways from Sunday in the middle of the afternoon and if one of your parishioners walks in on us, it’s tough titties for them.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    I love the development and growth of the characters in this series, not only Clare and Russ, but everyone in Millers Kill. I feel like I've gotten to know so many of the inhabitants, some very well, and some as passing acquaintances. The people and the town are so genuine. I can’t wait to see what happens next to Russ and Clare, of course, but also to Hadley and Kevin, to Lyle and Harlene and everyone else on the police force, to the Stillman’s and the Ellis’ and the rest of the townsfolk. I alm I love the development and growth of the characters in this series, not only Clare and Russ, but everyone in Millers Kill. I feel like I've gotten to know so many of the inhabitants, some very well, and some as passing acquaintances. The people and the town are so genuine. I can’t wait to see what happens next to Russ and Clare, of course, but also to Hadley and Kevin, to Lyle and Harlene and everyone else on the police force, to the Stillman’s and the Ellis’ and the rest of the townsfolk. I almost feel like a voyeur, peeking into these people’s lives. They are written with such depth; it’s hard to remember that they are fictional. Can’t wait for the eighth book in the series.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Olya

    the whole series was getting from bad to worse. I kept reading because of the characters, so of course in this book, they were all made to act out of character. and while the mystery was kind of interesting (enough to finish the book anyway), the ending was a complete contemporary fiction, deep disillusionment with harsh realities bs.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I loved this series, but felt like it jumped the shark with this book.

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