A wonderful WWII historical mystery….
Ed Ruggero has written a thoroughly enjoyable historical mystery in Comes the War, the second in his Eddie Harkins series. Ruggero is a West Point graduate, Army infantry officer, and, later, West Point instructor; his expertise shows in this tightly written book that will engage readers from the first chapter to the final historical note. The protagonist, Eddie Harkins, former Philadelphia beat cop, and now US Army First Lieutenant, arrives in London to become part of the fledgling OSS office there, just as Britain is crammed full of Yankee soldiers preparing for the coming cross-Channel offensive. From the small but difficult details (Harkins notices that lots of Brits are thin, and muses about the effects of rationing) to the large issues (were the Russians or the Germans the perpetrators of the Katyn Forest massacre of Poles), Ruggero’s descriptions will make readers think, even as they are also trying to solve the fictional murder of an OSS analyst along with Harkins. (On a personal note, your reviewer’s frustration with Covid-19’s stay-at-home orders suddenly felt trivial – a good thing!)
Although a solid historical background is necessary for a historical mystery, there also needs to be a suitably puzzling mystery, or else one is simply reading a historical novel. And the search for the killer of Helen Batcheller, a civilian analyst with a PhD in economics from Stanford (!!!), has enough twists and turns to keep Harkins busy – and to keep readers happy. The US Army, or at least some parts of it, appears ready to make a fall guy of the first suspect Harkins finds. But Harkins persists, and navigates his way past diversions ranging from Russian spies to a training mission gone badly wrong as he brings the case to a satisfactory conclusion.
Comes the War was a pleasure to read. I don’t give many five-star reviews, but Comes the War has earned one. Readers will hope for more books in this series, and for the return of characters such as Harkins’ British driver, Private Lowell, and Harkins’ paratrooper/chaplain brother, Patrick – and, of course, Harkins himself. Finally, my thanks to the publisher, Forge Books, and to NetGalley for the advance review copy!