One of the main reasons that I decided to read this book was because the author was a former military officer. I am really into military history, especially Civil War and WWI/WWII. My dad was also in the military and I grew up with military history.
I thought this one sounded like it would bring a lot of history to life mixed into a historical mystery. I also like that this book was going to be sent it Italy during the war instead of the traditional France or England.
This book ended up being quite a different read than I was expecting. So many historical mysteries lean toward the fluffy side, but this one was decidedly more gritty.
The nurses of the US Army’s Field Hospitals, mobile units that operate just behind the battle lines, contend with heat, dirt, short-handed staffs, the threat of German counterattack and an ever-present flood of horribly wounded GIs. At the 11th Field Hospital near Palermo, Sicily in the bloody summer of 1943, nurses also live with the threat of violent assault by one of their own–at least until someone shoots Dr. Myers Stephenson in the head.
Enter Eddie Harkins, a tough former Philadelphia beat cop turned Military Police lieutenant, who is first on the scene. Although he has never been a detective, Harkins soon finds himself the lone investigator, either because the Military Police are under-staffed or because someone in power thinks this rank amateur will never get close to the real killer. When the hospital commander tries to derail Harkins’ investigation by transferring or harassing key witnesses, it becomes clear to Harkins that the unit is rotten to its core, that the nurses are not safe, and that patients who have survived Nazi bullets are still at risk after they arrive at this place that is supposed to save them.
Harkins fights–and worries that he is losing–multiple battles. He is driven to give hope to nurses who just want to do their life-saving work, to right at least a few of the wrongs around him, and to do penance for sins in his own past. The one bright note for Harkins is a rekindled relationship with Kathleen Donnelly, a nurse from Harkins’ old neighborhood; but even that is complicated when Donnelly becomes a victim.(summary from Goodreads)
The first thing that I noticed about this book was that it started really slow for me. The last quarter of the book was much faster paced but the beginning was a bit of a struggle for me to get through. But I felt invested enough in the story to keep reading. There was a lot of sex/rape in the story which was a little startling and at times distracting but again not completely off putting.
While the book might have started slow, I think it was so develop the backstories and establish the time period and setting so that the reader would know what was going on. That was why I didn’t totally give up on it even if it was on the slow side. It was also very well researched and the author’s knowledge of WWII and military history/ranks is extensive, as I would expect from this author.
As for the mystery itself, I enjoyed it and thought the Eddie was a likable enough detective and certainly competent in his abilities even if he doesn’t believe that himself. When he is put on the case he thinks someone more competent will take it over but in the end he is expected to lead the investigation. I enjoyed watching him put the clues together and solve the mystery. I believe this is going to be a series and I think it will be a fun one to read and see how Eddie evolves in upcoming books.
So where does that leave me for a rating? Well I ended up going with 3 stars, it was decent debut but it needs a little polishing when it comes to pace but other than that it would be an enjoyable read for fans of WWII history and lovers of mysteries!
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