Blame the Dead

Forge. Mar. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781250312747. $27.99. M
Ruggero (The First Men In: U.S. Paratroopers and the Fight To Save D-Day) returns to fiction with this World War II mystery. Allied Forces have invaded Sicily and operating just behind the battle lines is the 11th Field Hospital. There, during a scramble caused by an air raid siren, someone shoots Dr. Myers Stephenson in the head. Eddie Harkins, military police lieutenant and a former Philadelphia beat cop, is the first on the scene. With no detective experience, Harkins feels woefully unqualified to solve the case, but he’s the hospital’s only hope. It’s revealed that Stephenson was sexually assaulting female nurses, and the hospital commander, who knew about the attacks and did nothing to stop them, soon begins transferring key witnesses and otherwise disrupting the investigation. Ruggero uses his military expertise to create a vivid and unconventional setting for a murder mystery, crafting an intriguing quagmire of institutional corruption to challenge his everyman hero. Harkins, however, as a series lead, is a bit of a bore, and the plot trudges along at a mechanical pace that lacks urgency.
VERDICT A promising but ultimately uneven start to a new World War II mystery series.

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