Protagonists: Rev. Clare Fergusson and Chief Russ Van Alstyne
Setting: Millers Kill, New York
In what may be her best book to date, Spencer-Fleming writes about the soldiers who return from war, and the scars they carry, emotional as well as physical. Clare Fergusson is among those -- she has returned from an 18-month tour in Iraq and is suffering from flashbacks; she can't function without taking uppers, downers and painkillers, mixed with alcohol, a secret she hides from everyone. She join a veteran's support group where she finds four others in similar situations: police officer Eric McCrea, who was an MP and who is unable to control violent tendencies; Will Ellis, a young man who returned as a double amputee; doctor Trip Stillman, who has suffered a brain injury and is hiding his memory issues from patients and family; and bookkeeper Tally McNabb, who had an affair with a fellow soldier. One of these people will die.
When Russ rules the death a suicide, Clare and her fellow vets disagree, and begin an investigation of their own. While there's some friction between Clare and Russ, most of the will-they or won't-they aspect of previous books is missing -- which is a good thing. Spencer-Fleming concentrates more on the mystery plot and presents us with a gripping character study of returning vets. There's still some romance, of course, and series readers will appreciate this book, too.