I have always been fascinating by religious mysteries and when I heard about this series, I wanted to read it. This is the first Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery I have read though not the first in the series. In One Was a Soldier, Reverend Clare Fergusson has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq and along with several soldiers is part of a group-counseling situation. Adjusting to civilian life is difficult for each of them. Clare is starting back with her church responsibilities but also continuing her relationship with Russ Van Alstyne, the local sheriff.
Coming back from war is always difficult and though there are more programs than ever to help soldiers adjust, it still is not easy. Each of the soldiers in Clare’s group has different issues but all of them are surprised when one of their members dies and it is ruled a suicide. Of course, Clare with the help of the other soldiers, and Russ with his police officers are determined to find out more about this soldier and why he died. Clare is convinced it was not suicide.
Clare is not typical of any of the clergy I know, and I have a number of pastor friends, including my brother. All but one of the dozens of pastors I know are men, but women pastors like women in other fields, have even more difficulty in proving themselves. Clare cusses, sleeps with her boyfriend and I found some of her thinking and behavior unfitting for a pastor. I have read about flawed clergy in other novels and
I finished the book and in the end, I agree there is something about Clare that pulls you in. I started out not caring that much about Clare but as the book went on, I became more interested in her. I have read about flawed clergy in other novels and I was hoping for more of a sense of redemption for her. I found non-believing Russ more likeable than she is and it is he that often pushes her to take the high road. Maybe if I go back and read the first in the series, I will find out why Clare, who seems so confused and at times unsure of her own faith, decided to be a pastor.
Spencer-Fleming writes an interesting mystery that keeps you guessing. She has won awards for this series and I think that part of that is because her main characters, Clare and Russ are flawed and complex. Though Clare is a pastor, it not really in her faith that she finds her comfort but in the end, it is in her relationship with Russ that they both are coming to understand who they are. And maybe that is where the redemption is.