Soldier on the Porch
Five Star, Oct 2007, $255
In 1973 at the Pisgah Mountain VA Hospital in Ashville, North Carolina, an explosion rips into an abandoned wing. Security guard Avivah Rosen investigates the ruins. Two corpses are found; one is nonagenarian patient Zeb Blackenship who went out for a smoke and the other is Major Henry Campos, Avivah’s nasty former superior in Viet Nam. Meanwhile Avivah’s friend nurse Elizabeth Pepperhawk knows the rules, but showed up for work somewhat intoxicated; she is forced to join a counseling program. Thier other friend Benny Kirkpatrick is too busy with school and babysitting to assist either female.
The FBI Agent Harrington and Military Intelligence Officer Darby Baxter take Avivah into custody to protect her from a serial killer. Besides Campos, three other officers from that cell of five are dead; she is the last one standing. However, not one to sit around, Avivah sneaks out with the help of newspaper reporter Saul Eisenberg as she begins an inquiry into who wants them dead; she already knows why.
The latest 1970s military veterans Pepperhawk/Rosen mystery (see SOME WELCOME HOME and FIRST MURDER IN ADVENT) is an exhilarating thriller that focuses mostly on what happened in Viet Nam that Avivah has hidden. This time Ben is a minor player unable to come to the rescue of his two female friends and Elizabeth is tied up with an alcohol issue. This leaves Avivah going alone (she enlists Saul) to fix the mess as her choices seem to be going to jail or learning of more murders until she becomes a corpse. Historical mystery fans will enjoy this strong investigative tale that remains relevant as the then hot Cold War Against Communism is now the hot cold War Against Terrorism.