DEROS: Date of Expected Return from Overseas. In John A. Vanek's first Father Jake Austin mystery, the former medic in Vietnam may physically be in the United States, but even in 2002, he still feels as if he left a part of himself behind.
After his service in Vietnam, Jake became a doctor, and then he went one step further and became a priest in the Camillian order, one that specializes in ministering to the sick. He never expected to return to his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio, but here he is back, just in time for his thirtieth class reunion. He's filling in for a priest who is in the hospital, but neither the hospital, nor, from the appearances, the rectory's housekeeper, are happy to have him. And, his classmates aren't expecting the former hell raiser to show up thirty years later as a priest and physician.
But, Jake's medical experiences come in handy when a classmate collapses at the reunion. However, he's not around when another classmate dies of poisoning, and a third is shot. Even so, his former teammate and friend, Police Chief Tremont "Tree" Macon, has to suspect everyone. Only the earlier death of a younger woman breaks the pattern. However, she graduated from the same high school, if not in the same class.
DEROS is a mystery, and the first in a series. However, it's also the story of a troubled man, a man who can't leave his past behind, but returns home to find his failures. He still loves the woman who was his high school sweetheart. He struggles with his anger, and he's a man with serious anger management issues. It's that anger that puts him on Tree's list of possible suspects. And, he can't forgive his father for his failings, but it's because of his father's past that Jake's future may be changed forever.
When Jake returns to Oberlin, it "resurrected long-buried memories and feelings". He just wants to finish his temporary assignment and get out of town. But, there's a killer with a long memory in DEROS.
John A. Vanek's website is www.JohnVanekAuthor.com
DEROS by John A Vanek. Coffeetown Press, 2018. ISBN 9781603816199 (paperback), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.