Alafair Tucker's extended Oklahoma family is thrilled to have the oldest son, Gee Dub, home from France. But, all the children and grandchildren become a little too much for Gee Dub at times. He spends his days riding his horse, just appreciating the quiet. While out on one of his trips, he comes across a young woman who is worn out from walking. He brings Holly Johnson home. While he's fascinated by her, Alafair is welcoming, but watchful.
Alafair already knows her son is troubled, and she's found two almost empty boxes of cartridges under his pillow. Alafair's father-in-law tells her those are "forty dead men". As a young recruit, he was given two boxes, and told not to waste them, "cause the man you miss may be the one who kills you". There's still one cartridge in Gee Dub's boxes. She's not sure the son who returned to Oklahoma is the Gee Dub who left for war.
Holly Johnson's story is a war story, but it only becomes worse. She married Daniel Johnson in Maine before he shipped out. Then, she stopped hearing from him, so she took a train, then stopped to work, and sometimes walked, to get to Oklahoma and find him. When Sheriff Tucker tells Holly they found Daniel's body and buried it, she pulls out a picture, only to discover the man they buried wasn't her husband. And, when they track down Daniel Johnson, they discover he wasn't her husband at all. Daniel Johnson was already married.
When Daniel Johnson is killed, Holly's protector, Gee Dub, is the main suspect. He won't provide an alibi, and his last bullet is missing. But, Alafair Tucker will do everything necessary to protect her oldest son.
Forty Dead Men is a tragic, bittersweet story of a returning veteran and PTSD. While there's a mystery, the story actually revolves around Gee Dub. Even if you haven't read the previous Alafair Tucker mysteries, you can pick up this book. And, if you're a fan of the Ian Rutledge mysteries, you might want to meet another veteran of World War I.
Doris Casey's website is www.doniscasey.com
Forty Dead Men by Doris Casey. Poisoned Pen Press, 2018. ISBN 9781464209376 (hardcover), 216p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received my copy to review for a journal.