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One Was a Soldier (Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries) Hardcover – April 12, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 198 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Adjusting to civilian life after a tour in Iraq proves difficult for Rev. Clare Fergusson in Spencer-Fleming's resonant and timely seventh mystery featuring Clare and her not-so-secret lover, police chief Russ Van Alstyne (after 2008's I Shall Not Want). On returning to Millers Kill, N.Y., Clare jumps right back into her duties as priest of St. Alban's Episcopalian Church. But her 18 months flying helicopters in Iraq aren't entirely in the past: she's drinking more and relying on a mix of leftover pills from her Army medical kit. Along with several other returning service members, Clare joins a community support group for veterans. When a member of the group, Tally McNab, apparently shoots herself in the mouth and falls dead into her swimming pool, Clare spearheads an investigation, hounding Russ to consider homicide. Clare and Russ's relationship deepens, while the focus on the struggles of veterans supplies another strong emotional thread. Author tour; 75,000 first printing. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Reunited after 18 months, Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson and police chief Russ Van Alstyne seek a future together. But Clare�s extended tour as a National Guard helicopter pilot in Iraq has left her needing booze and pills to get through the night, a dependence she�s unable to admit even in her counseling group of Iraq veterans that includes a teenage double amputee, a cop with anger issues, a doctor with short-term memory loss, and a bookkeeper, Tally McNabb, who�s soon found shot to death. Unable to accept Tally�s death as a suicide even after she�s found to have engineered a million-dollar theft from the army, Clare prods the group to a much bigger discovery. As in her previous novel, I Shall Not Want (2008), Spencer-Fleming explores a serious societal issue�the reentry problems of soldiers home from combat�that extends even to small-town Millers Kill, New York, while concocting an absolutely irresistible combination of crime fiction and romance. Despite some potentially confusing play with chronology early on, this is a surefire winner, taking the linchpin Fergusson�Van Alstyne relationship to a new level, probing the personal lives of other members of the town�s police department, and personalizing the toll taken by war. Spencer-Fleming�s fans who have been waiting anxiously for her latest won�t be disappointed; this series, as intelligent as it is enthralling, just keeps getting better. --Michele Leber

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Product Details

  • Series: Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries (Book 7)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312334893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312334895
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,225,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Yes, Clare Fergusson has come back from deployment in Iraq in One Was a Soldier: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries). After eighteen months as a helicopter pilot, it's back to a life in Millers Kill that is familiar yet forever changed because Clare, like other returnees from combat zones, can't shake the memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. Changed because she's using uppers and downers to get on with her civilian life as an Episcopol priest. Changed because when she and police chief Russ Van Alstyne reunite, she hides her true state and pretends she is "fine."

She isn't alone, of course. Other returning military men and women have similar readjustment problems. So, the novel opens on September 5 with the first session of Sarah Dowling's licensed clinical therapy group which consists of five reticent Millers Kill vets, including Clare. To fill in the reader on what's happened to these people since they returned a few months ago, the story rewinds and that, for example, is how we see Russ welcoming Clare home on June 24. At first: "She didn't leap into his arms. they had been circumspect for so long, always standing apart, controlling their eyes and hands like nuns in a medieval abbey." That was at the armory. Somehow they (especially Clare) become much less nun-like in Russ' truck.

ONE WAS A SOLDIER concerns itself with the personal dramas of small-town American war veterans, their struggles, their despair, their anger, their fear, their secretiveness. We see what befalls Clare and the four others in Sarah's group. We watch them hurt themselves and others. We watch them lie.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's been close to 2 years since the author has had a new book out - we've been away from Miller's Kill as long as Clare has been away in Iraq. And while it's been a long time coming, this book was definitely worth the wait.

Other reviewers have done an excellent job of describing the plot of this book. As with her other books, this book is a series of layers - there is the mystery of the apparent suicide of a member of a Veteran's support group to which Clare belongs. There is also the story of Clare and her struggles with returning to civilian life (and the struggles of many veterans). And for many of us readers, a large part of our enjoyment of this series is the continuing development of Russ and Clare's romance/relationship. As in previous books, the author does a wonderful job of interweaving all these elements. There was never a time in reading this book that I felt any of these elements were shortchanged.

Is this book perfect? Darn close. I had some minor nits - I agree with other reviewers that Clare and Russ seemed to return to their relationship quickly. But honestly, this is one of those books where you just want to find a place and read it from start to finish with no interruptions.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Clare Fergusson returns from an 18-month tour in Iraq and Russ Van Alstyne is still waiting, just as Spencer-Fleming's loyal readers waited for this long overdue volume in the series. I was not disappointed: it's one of the best mysteries I've read in a long time.

The story is framed by therapy sessions for a group of veterans at a local community center, led by a valiant but slightly naive counselor. She's surprised to find they know each other but the participants seem used to these small-town interactions. As the plot progresses, the group members become entwined in each other's lives. Spencer-Fleming makes it easy to follow the stories of characters as diverse as a teenage Marine amputee, a cop with anger management issues, a physician with a head wound, a young woman who's guarding secrets and of course Clare herself.

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. The author doesn't flinch from the realities of damaged lives and the resistance to psychological help. At one point one of the characters points out that many military service people come from small towns like this one. They're often from families that can't afford college. The military is their escape. I was reminded of the wonderful movie, Taking Chance. I was also reminded of stories about young people who join the Guard to get benefits and end up in situations way over their heads.

Because the novel focuses on so many diverse characters, we get less time with Clare than I might have liked.
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