Loved Honor More by Sharon Wildwind

Sharon Wildwind’s Loved Honor More (Five Star, 394 pp., $25.95) is the latest in a series of her Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen mysteries. The author, who spent a year in Vietnam as an officer in the U. S. Army Nurse Corps, says she “can still remember exactly where she was the day that Saigon fell.” That’s not unusual for a Vietnam veteran. 

The title offers no clues that this is a Vietnam War-related mystery, but the colorful cover features dog tags, a blue and red edged airmail envelope, and a photograph of a helicopter against an orange sky. Those were enough clues for this student of paperback book covers to indicate that there is a story inside that deals with the Vietnam War.

Loved Honor More is a historical mystery. It takes place during the final weeks preceding the Fall of Saigon. The author tells us this is the final book in this series.

The heading of Chapter One informs us that it is “Sunday, 4 May 1975, 2200 hours, the Homestead, Madison County, North Carolina.” The first sentence begins: “Ex-Army nurse Elizabeth Pepperhawk burrowed deeper under her quilt.” The scene is set and the main character has been presented.

The author in her Army days

Soon the book is off and running at full speed. I have not read the previous books in this series, which puts me at a disadvantage. But I found the book immediately engrossing even though the characters were new to me, which is a tribute to the skill of the author.

In the first two chapters, ex-nurse Elizabeth Pepperhawk (Pepper) is informed of the murder by knife of her long-time lover, Colonel Darby Baxter, in a hallway in the U.S. Embassy in Saigon as that city is about to fall to the communists.  Also, Pepperhawk is blackmailed by her alleged friend, a Miss Fillmore, for $3 million for possession of Colonel Baxter’s  blue-grey eyed, infant daughter.

This reader was sucked in. Who killed Colonel Baxter and why? Who is the mother of the infant daughter and where is she?

Soon Miss Fillmore is found dead in Pepperhawk’s clinic. Pepper and her two friends, Avivah Rosen and Benny Kirkpatrick, decide that Colonel Baxter lied about the baby. He “loved honor more,” as the title says. But then, who are the baby’s parents?

Pepper and her two friends begin to try to solve the mystery closest to them: Who murdered Miss Fillmore?  Soon the Vietnam War invades Pepper’s homestead in North Carolina in the form of Vietnamese refugees whose presence upsets the local community of veterans.

I’ll tell no more of this story to avoid acting as a spoiler. I will say that I enjoyed the book, and will order the other books in the series that I somehow missed. I recommend that fans of Vietnam War-related mysteries make a point to get acquainted with this series featuring the intrepid and persistent Elizabeth Pepperhawk.

The author’s website is www.wildwindauthor.com

—David Willson

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