American fans of Zoë Sharp‘s Charlie Fox series have had to show a degree of resourcefulness and grit often associated with the heroes of thrillers—hopefully they haven’t resorted to violence. The first U.S. edition, First Drop (2005), was the fourth book in the series, which meant that by the time the sixth in the series arrived, Second Shot (2007), fans were wondering where to find the fifth, as well as the first through the third. Busted Flush press then reprinted the early ones, starting with Killer Instinct, which meant that, on store bookshelves at least, Charlie’s story was like a bend in the time-space continuum. (I confess that I’m not 100% sure I have the chronology right.)
But let’s set aside the vagaries of trans-Atlantic publishing: Booklist has called Sharp “Must reading for fans of action-packed, hard-edged thrillers” and some guy called Lee Child has said that Jack Reacher would team up with Charlie Fox “in a heartbeat.” So what does this red-hot writer recommend you read? Well, it involves a soldier, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.
Choosing a favorite book of the last year has been very difficult. There were a lot of contenders, but I think Julia Spencer-Fleming’s latest, One Was A Soldier, just clinches it.
It centers on the small town of Millers Kill and the ongoing relationship between Episcopalian priest Clare Fergusson and police chief Russ Van Alstyne. Clare has just returned from service with the National Guard as a helicopter pilot in Iraq. Her problems readjusting are realistically portrayed against a background of other returning veterans, all damaged and with differing reactions to their experiences of war and returning to civilian life.
The sheer skill of Spencer-Fleming’s storytelling craftsmanship makes this book a joy to read, combining as it does both pace and depth. She subtly weaves a complex tale of guilt and betrayal into an examination of wounded souls trying to find their feet. There are very few missteps here. The religious aspects are deftly handled so as not to overbalance the story and it becomes a morality tale of right and wrong, where the ending is highly satisfying without being too pat. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
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