A hospital explosion triggers a murder investigation and a probe into buried secrets.
Asheville, N.C., 1973. Pisgah Mountain Veterans Administration Hospital is rocked by a fiery explosion. Nurse Elizabeth Pepperhawk, acting on instinct and memories of her recent tour in Vietnam, covers the body of her patient. Coworker and housemate Avivah Rosen guides her from the floor, both because of some minor wounds and because she smells liquor on Pepper’s breath. While Pepper deals with conflicting emotions, Avivah faces local police over the explosion and the escape of elderly patient Zeb Blankenship. His body is found in the wreckage along with that of Major Henry Campos, Avivah’s commander in Vietnam. When Campos had covered up the killing of six American soldiers, Avivah left the army instead of confronting him and never told the story. There’s no lack of curious investigators nosing around. Intelligence officer Darby Baxter, whom Avivah knows from a previous escapade (First Murder in Advent, 2006, etc.), the FBI and a nosy reporter named Saul Eisenberg all besiege her with questions. Pepper and pal Benny Kirkpatrick help her dig into Campos’ past. When Eisenberg is shot, Avivah recognizes the urgency of coming clean and solving the crimes.
Wildwind’s third Pepperhawk/Rosen mystery has an appealing cast of regulars and a terrific sense of time and place, but her writing could use less starch.