“These are the times that try men's souls.” - Thomas Paine, The American Crisis
it is late January 1781 and the 82nd Regiment arrives in Wilmington, North Carolina. leaving behind defenseless civilians to surrender to the Crown, rebels and patriots alike flee from the regiment's approach. no sooner had Lieutenant Michael Stoddard stepped foot inside the town when his commander Major James Craig assigns him on a case - to find a missing woman and to look into the suspicious activities of Vicar Elijah Spivey and his Church of Mary and Martha of Bethany. with Nick Spry as his assistant, Michael immediately conducts his investigation and discovers more than he bargained for.
although Deadly Occupation is the third book in the Michael Stoddard Mystery series to be published, it is chronologically the first book. it takes the reader to the start of Wilmington's occupation and rehabilitation by the redcoats. we meet a pimply, younger, more naive Michael Stoddard and learn how Nick Spry became his assistant and how he met the beautiful "Ice Widow" Kate Duncan.
i have read and reviewed the other two books in the series (Regulated for Murder & A Hostage to Heritage) and as a fan, the events, people and places during this era made more sense now that i had the opportunity to read the series' Genesis.
the author has proven herself again and again to be an excellent wordsmith and storyteller. her attention to detail is spot on as always - from the setting, clothing and weaponry to the era's speech and conventions. mixing fact and fiction as to make the distinction so thin and fine is evident again in this novel. moreover, Michael's sensual nature is a revelation and a welcome surprise here yet it has never distracted him from his duty as an officer and his bearing as a gentleman.
Adam Neville, a double-spy, makes a brief appearance as well and despite not being physically present, Lieutenant Dunstan Fairfax continues to intrude upon and torment Michael's memories.
i welcome Suzanne Adair's latest installment and i embrace it for its action-packed scenes, twists and turns, well-developed characters and engaging, fast-paced storyline.
*received an ARC for review