Title: Blame the Dead
Author: Ed Ruggero
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Forge Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: March 3, 2020
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.
Eddie Harkins was a traffic cop in the United States before World War II began. When a surgeon is murdered at a hospital base in Sicily, he is brought to the base to investigate. He discovers many secrets and coverups that have been happening at the base, which makes his investigation complicated.
The writing in this story was clear and concise. I immediately felt sympathy for the characters. Harkins got some bad news fairly early on in the book, and I could feel his pain. The story was detailed, but also concise, so words weren’t wasted. The story was also fast paced, so it was difficult to put down.
There are some sexual assaults and rapes that Harkins uncovers in his investigation. One thing that I noticed right away was that the men in charge treated these accusations in the same way that they are often treated today. They either brushed them off as being a misunderstanding or blamed the women for leading them on or wanting to be touched like that. Unfortunately, that’s still often the response decades later. However, this made the story very timely, since there is more awareness about sexual assaults today.
I loved this book! I highly recommend it!
Thank you Forge Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
The First Men In: U.S. Paratroopers and the Fight to Dave D-Day by Ed Ruggero
Come From Away by Genevieve Graham
Have you read Blame the Dead? What did you think of it?