This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One was a Soldier is three stories. One, of course, is a mystery with all of the characters of Millers Kill that the fans of Julia Spencer-Fleming have gotten to know and love. The second is the on-going love affair between Reverend Claire and Chief Van Alstyne. The third, and most predominant, is the story of what war does to those who participate in it and the struggle they have to come back to a life at home. All three stories are tightly woven together into a single cloth.
The mystery part of the story had few unexpected moments. By page 165 one knew who the major bad people were. What was, perhaps, unexpected was the plea bargain arrangement at the end. In our novels we like to believe that the bad guy will get what he deserves, in the end.
The love affair progressed with its usual ups and downs. I didn’t like the ending as I see it taking the characters away from the dynamic that has made them so enjoyable.
Because part of the mystery took place in Iraq and the story is set with the cast of characters being veterans returning from Iraq, their problems re-integrating into normal, daily, state-side life becomes the real story of the novel. When combined with Chief Alstyne’s reactions coming back from Vietnam, which he still has to deal with on an on-going basis, one understands that these problems are not unique to any one war. Whether the effects of war are called shell-shock, battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress it is clear that war scars the soul. In the telling of this part of the story Spencer-Fleming writes without syrup or tear-jerking in a realistic and truthful manner.
Overall, an enjoyable addition to her series.