Comes the War - Tor/Forge Blog



What’s New from Forge this Winter

A new year is upon us, which means a slew of new books are arriving on the scene from Forge! We’re so excited to share the lineup of amazing books we have coming your way this winter. If you’re on the hunt for some books to curl up with during these chillier months of the year, take a look at what Forge has in store for you!

Cutthroat Dogs by Loren D. Estleman

Poster Placeholder of - 22“Someone is dead who shouldn’t be, and the wrong man is in prison.”

Nearly twenty years ago, college freshman April Goss was found dead in her bathtub, an apparent suicide, but suspicion soon fell on her boyfriend. Dan Corbeil was convicted of her murder and sent to prison. Case closed.

Or is it?

Available to read now!

A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

A Thousand Steps-1Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment.

Matt Anthony is just trying get by.

Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad is a no-show, his brother’s fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it. Not after another missing girl turns up dead on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast.

If it’s not already too late.

Available to read now!

Margaret Truman’s Murder at the CDC by Margaret Truman and Jon Land

Margaret Truman's Murder at the CDC2017: A military transport on a secret run to dispose of its deadly contents vanishes without a trace.

The present: A mass shooting on the steps of the Capitol nearly claims the life of Robert Brixton’s grandson.

No stranger to high-stakes investigations, Brixton embarks on a trail to uncover the motive behind the shooting. On the way he finds himself probing the attempted murder of the daughter of his best friend, who works at the Washington offices of the CDC.

The connection between the mass shooting and Alexandra’s poisoning lies in that long-lost military transport that has been recovered by forces determined to change America forever. Those forces are led by radical separatist leader Deacon Frank Wilhyte, whose goal is nothing short of bringing on a second Civil War.

Brixton joins forces with Kelly Lofton, a former Baltimore homicide detective. She has her own reasons for wanting to find the truth behind the shooting on the Capitol steps, and is the only person with the direct knowledge Brixton needs. But chasing the truth places them in the cross-hairs of both Wilhyte’s legions and his Washington enablers.

Coming 2.15.22!

The Chase by Candice Fox

The Chase

“Are you listening, Warden?”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to let them out.”

“Which inmates are we talking about?”

“All of them.”

With that, the largest manhunt in United States history is on. In response to a hostage situation, more than 600 inmates from the Pronghorn Correctional Facility, including everyone on Death Row, are released into the Nevada Desert. Criminals considered the worst of the worst, monsters with dark, violent pasts, are getting farther away by the second.

John Kradle, convicted of murdering his wife and son, is one of the escapees. Now, desperate to discover what really happened that night, Kradle must avoid capture and work quickly to prove his innocence as law enforcement closes in on the fugitives.

Death Row Supervisor, and now fugitive-hunter, Celine Osbourne has focused all of her energy on catching Kradle and bringing him back to Death Row. She has very personal reasons for hating him – and she knows exactly where he’s heading…

Coming 3.8.22!

Assassin’s Edge by Ward Larsen

image alt textA U.S. spy plane crashes off the northern coast of Russia at the same time that a Mossad operative is abducted from a street in Kazakhstan. The two events seem unrelated, but as suspicions rise, the CIA calls in its premier operative, David Slaton.

When wreckage from the aircraft is discovered on a remote Arctic island, Slaton and a team are sent on a clandestine mission to investigate. While they comb a frigid Russian island at the top of the world, disaster strikes yet again: a U.S. Navy destroyer sinks in the Black Sea.

Evidence begins mounting that these disparate events are linked, controlled by an unseen hand. A mysterious source, code name Lazarus, provides tantalizing clues about another impending strike. Yet Lazarus has an agenda that is deeply personal, a thirst for revenge against a handful of clandestine operators. Prime among them: David Slaton.

Coming 4.12.22!

Traitor by David Hagberg

image alt text1When McGarvey’s best friend, Otto, is charged with treason, Mac and his wife, Petey, set out on a desperate odyssey to clear Otto’s name. Crossing oceans and continents, their journey will take them from Japan to the US to Pakistan to Russia. Caught in a Kremlin crossfire between two warring intel agencies, Mac and Petey must fight for their lives every step of the way.

And the stakes could not be higher.

Coming 4.26.22!

And here are some great books coming out in trade paperback!

Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton

Waiting for the Night Song-1Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.

Available to read now! Reading group guide also available.

My Brilliant Life by Ae-ran Kim; translated by Chi-Young Kim

My Brilliant Life-1Areum lives life to its fullest, vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang—his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend—and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see.

For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story.

Through it all, Areum and his family will have you laughing and crying, for all the right reasons.

Coming 2.1.22! Reading group guide also available.

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Her Perfect Life-1Everyone knows Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all—fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips—but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he—or she—know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world—and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life?

Coming 3.8.22! Reading group guide also available.

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove-1Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted—so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers. It’s the last place either of them wants to be, but with a little help from the inn’s quirky guests, the sisters may come to terms with their strained relationships, accept the past, and rediscover a little lake magic.

Coming 3.1.22! Reading group guide also available.

The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska

The Widow QueenThe bold one, they call her—too bold for most.

To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire.

But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father’s schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side.

The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways.

Coming 3.15.22! Reading group guide also available.

Comes the War by Ed Ruggero

Comes the War-1April 1944, the fifty-fifth month of the war in Europe. The entire island of Britain fairly buzzes with the coiled energy of a million men poised to leap the Channel to France, the first, riskiest step in the Allies’ long slog to the heart of Germany and the end of the war.

Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is tasked to investigate the murder of Helen Batcheller, an OSS analyst. Harkins is assigned a British driver, Private Pamela Lowell, to aid in his investigation. Lowell is smart, brave and resourceful; like Harkins, she is prone to speak her mind even when it doesn’t help her.

Soon a suspect is arrested and Harkins is ordered to stop digging. Suspicious, he continues his investigation only to find himself trapped in a web of Soviet secrets. As bombs fall, Harkins must solve the murder and reveal the spies before it is too late.

Coming 3.29.22!

A Dog’s Courage by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's CourageBella was once a lost dog, but now she lives happily with her people, Lucas and Olivia, only occasionally recalling the hardships in her past. Then a weekend camping trip turns into a harrowing struggle for survival when the Rocky Mountains are engulfed by the biggest wildfire in American history. The raging inferno separates Bella from her people and she is lost once more.

Alone in the wilderness, Bella unexpectedly finds herself responsible for the safety of two defenseless mountain lion cubs. Now she’s torn between two equally urgent goals. More than anything, she wants to find her way home to Lucas and Olivia, but not if it means abandoning her new family to danger. And danger abounds, from predators hunting them to the flames threatening at every turn.

Can Bella ever get back to where she truly belongs?

A Dog’s Courage is more than a fast-paced adventure, more than a devoted dog’s struggle to survive, it’s a story asking that we believe in our dogs as much as they believe in us.

Coming 4.5.22!


Historical Fiction Novels We’re Excited About This Season

From stories of forgotten queens to mysteries set during World War II, Forge has a historical fiction novel for every reader coming out this season. If you’ve been thinking of picking up a page-turning novel set in the past, read our team’s recommendations below!

Place holder  of - 76The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska

First published in Polish, and now to be released in English, Elzbieta Cherezinska’s historical novel The Widow Queen follows the epic life of a real Polish queen that history forgot. Swietoslawa is one of three daughters to the great duke of Poland, who has his eyes set on creating advantageous matches for the sisters. But Swietoslawa, who’s nickname is The Bold One (as she is too bold for most) wants no part in her father’s plans, wants to be queen and rule alone – with no king attached. The Widow Queen comes out on April 6th.

Lizzy Hosty, Marketing Intern

Image Place holder  of - 92The Eagle & The Viper by Loren D. Estleman

Is there anything Loren D. Estleman can’t write? Renowned for both his mystery books and his western books, in The Eagle and the Viper, he takes on a Christmas Eve plot to kill Napoleon in 1800. It has all the page-turning suspense you would expect from this master writer as well as a thrilling new take on a moment in history that would have repercussions for years to come.

Jennifer, Senior Marketing Manager

Placeholder of  -68The Paradise Affair by Bill Pronzini

For those of you who love a good historical mystery series, look no further! Bill Pronzini’s Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery series follows detective partners Sabrina Carpenter and John Quincannon as they solve a variety of “whodunit” mysteries. The books are all set around the late 19th century and typically take place in San Francisco. The ninth and newest book in the series is The Paradise Affair, and it follows our two detectives as they chase down two con men who have fled to Hawaii. Each of the books in the series can be read as a standalone, so you can go ahead and dive into The Paradise Affair and take a trip to Hawaii with Carpenter and Quincannon now! If you’re a fan of the Netflix show Peaky Blinders, then this series is definitely for you.

Sarah, Digital Marketing Coordinator

Image Placeholder of - 33Comes the War by Ed Ruggero

If you’re looking for a gripping book set against the heroism and heartbreak of WWII, then look no further than former Army officer Ed Ruggero’s Comes the War. The main character, Lieutenant Eddie Harkins, is assigned to investigate the murder of Helen Batcheller, an OSS analyst. Harkins is paired with a British driver, Private Pamela Lowell, to aid in the investigation. Soon ​after, ​a suspect is quickly arrested and Harkins is ​told to stop his search for answers. ​Yet the swift arrest causes him to become ​suspicious,​ so, against orders,​ he ​decides to ​​press on with ​the investigation​. ​​But the deeper he digs, the further he gets himself entangled ​​in a web of deadly Soviet secrets. As bombs ​drop and war rages on, ​​​​Harkins must ​rush to ​solve the murder and ​expose the spies​…​all before it​’s ​too late. Comes the War brilliantly captures the timeless stories of ordinary people swept up in extraordinary circumstances and it’s a perfect read for all historical fiction lovers!​

Ariana, Marketing Coordinator

Poster Placeholder of - 63Finn Mac Cool by Morgan Llywelyn

In college, we read Flann O’Brien’s masterpiece, At Swim Two Birds, which heavily features the Irish folk hero, Finn Mac Cool. Even though I’m Irish American, I had never heard of him, but my interest was piqued. So, I was delighted when Forge reissued Morgan Llywelyn’s novel, Finn Mac Cool. Historians aren’t sure how much of Mac Cool is real, and how much is legend, but Llywelyn is an expert at both Irish history and mythology, so she handles walking the line between both worlds beautifully.

Julia, Associate Marketing Manager


5 Books on US Military History




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Comes the War is the newest book in Ed Ruggero’s Eddie Harkins series, and it’s set against the heroism and heartbreak of WWII. Ed Ruggero is also a former Army officer, so he knows a thing or two about military history!

To celebrate the recent release of his newest novel, Ed is joining us on the blog to talk about some of his favorite military history books.

Read his recommendations below, and order your copy of Comes the War—available now wherever books are sold!

By Ed Ruggero

1776, by David McCullough

Image Placeholder of - 63The year begins on a good note for the rebels, with them sitting outside Boston while Britain’s army is shut in the town. In January 1776 George Washington and Henry Knox, his director of artillery, put up a strong firing position south of town, using cannon Knox has dragged overland from Fort Ticonderoga in New York. The Americans are thrilled that the British decide to retreat and celebrate the event, but the enemy, with their much stronger navy, will no doubt reappear.

The British come back to New York in the autumn, maneuvering against the rebels and forcing the abandonment of thousands of American soldiers at Fort Washington. The general after whom the fort is named led his belittled army across New Jersey and Pennsylvania as he tried to avoid capitulation. By December it seems only a matter of time, and at the end of the year a large number of American enlistments are up. The British have called the season, retreating back to New York and leaving hired Hessians to defend a series of outposts in New Jersey.

But George Washington is not done. He launches a surprise attack on Trenton on Christmas Day, which is successful. He retreats back to Pennsylvania before realizing the British are slow to respond. In another attack he defeats a British force sent to Princeton, New Jersey to meet him. The year 1776 was one filled with some of the highest and lowest points of the American Revolution, and McCullough brings it to life.

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara 

Place holder  of - 94This Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the battle of Gettysburg doesn’t try to cover everything, as a history might, yet it is still successful in sticking close—very close—to the facts. I use this as the sole read-ahead when taking folks to visit the battlefield because it gives a novelist’s temperature of the field and the times, but also because it raises the profile of a forgotten hero of this terrible fight, a 34-year old former professor turned military commander, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The novel brings us the story of a remarkable man who was famous in his own lifetime but had become largely lost to history in the years since his death. Shaara homes in on those few hours that were so important to the Federal cause, making his Chamberlain a man who fights his own weaknesses at the same time he takes on the natural shortcomings of his men. Shaara does take liberties, such as when his fictitious commander addresses a mutiny among men from another unit, but his portrayal of what the real Chamberlain believed is important.

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

Placeholder of  -92Told from the perspective of a German private soldier in World War One, this novel is sensitive enough to capture the truth about the cruelty of war from the perspective of a powerless soldier, who goes where he is supposed to go, fights whom he’s supposed to fight, and hates both what he experiences and what he has become with enough insight to reach any reader. Published in 1928, eventually translated into a number languages, the book reached a vast number of people worldwide before being shut down by Nazi efforts in 1933. Remarque, an eighteen-year-old private German soldier in the Great War, was wounded several times in that fight. He worked at a number of jobs while laboring on this masterwork, and his instant success on its publication was enough to gain him liberty to live in the United States during World War Two. Because it is told from the perspective of a young solider, the novel contains enough truth for any side.

Citizens of London, by Lynne Olson

Poster Placeholder of - 40I chose this title because it takes the opposite approach of All Quiet, following the highest levels of government. The non-fiction work tracks the World War Two experiences of three Americans who were critical to the British effort when that island held out the last resistance to Hitler: John G. Winant, the American ambassador to Great Britain in the war; the hard-working Edward R. Murrow, perhaps the best-known of the American radio correspondents in England; and Averell Harriman, the wealthy individual who served as the American Lend-Lease administrator for Great Britain. These men, drawn here with the novelist’s care for the entire picture, helped save Britain—and thus the Allies—from defeat at German hands while clinging as the last resistance. Olson does a remarkable job telling all of the story, the shady parts as well as the heroic (For instance, Pamela Churchill, the prime minister’s daughter-in-law, had affairs with both Harriman and Murrow.) It is most interesting to find that all was not well among the Allies, that the United States turned away from Britain soon after the guns went silent, leaving that island nation that had lost one quarter of its wealth and two thirds of its export trade. (Britain would pay off its debt to the United States in December 2006.) Likewise all was not well with these men who had worked so hard to help build the victory the Allies enjoyed, however briefly, in 1945. American presidential aide Harry Hopkins saw what was happening and wrote in his private notes, “Why should we deliberately set out to make a weak Great Britain in the next hundred years?” America, Hopkins wrote, had a moral debt to repay. “I believe that the British have saved our skins twice—in 1914 and again in 1940. They, with the French, took the brunt of the attack in the First World War, and the Germans came within a hair’s breadth of licking them both before we got in it. This time, it was Britain alone that held the fort, and they held that fort for us just as much for themselves, because we would not have had a chance to have licked Hitler had Britain fallen.”

Redeployment, by Phil Klay

“We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.”

And so begins the first story in this National Book Award winning collection of short tales, with the narrator of each taking a bend on the predictable. Klay varies his storytellers, from the Marine grunt to the civilian who is tagged to start a league of . . . wait for it . . . baseball teams. That’s supposed to help the civilians appreciate just how generous Americans are, or perhaps it’s meant to show the person back in the US of A that his generosity in supplying this pastime to the war-battered people of Iraq is meant to undo all the terrible things our military is doing there. Take your pick.

This collection of short-stories takes that unconventional approach—you never know what you’re going to get when you start one. But know this: you will be affected by the terrible, powerful images, the simple performance of words that will help you see why war is one of the most brutal experiences a person, any person, can go through.

Order Comes the War—Now Available!

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5 Historical Fiction Books About World War II to Add to Your TBR

Place holder  of - 40By Lizzy Hosty

Comes the War, the second in the Eddie Harkins series which began with Blame the Dead published last year follows Harkins, a Military Police officer who’s tasked with solving murder mysteries against the backdrop of World War II. To get you ready for Comes the War, Ed Ruggero’s latest, here’s a list of more thrilling books set in WWII.

Also, make sure to grab a copy of Comes the War, available now wherever books are sold!


Image Placeholder of - 54The Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis

This thrilling series by Ian Tregillis explores an alternative WWII where the Nazis have supermen and the British have demons. Book one, Bitter Seeds, follows Raybould Marsh, a British secret agent, as he tries to rally support against the Germans. Book two, The Coldest War, explores the nuclear conflict following this version of WWII, and book three, Necessary Evil, has Marsh travelling back to WWII to save humanity from aliens who are watching the war.

Placeholder of  -24A Midwinter’s Tale by Andrew M. Greeley

A Midwinter’s Tale by Andrew M. Greeley is the first in the Family Saga series following the O’Malley family, an Irish American family. Charles “Chucky” Cronin O’Malley is stationed in Germany after the end of WWII where he meets and falls in love with Trudi, all while the two try to avoid smugglers, black marketeers, border patrols, and even the US Army.

This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew FukudaPoster Placeholder of - 52

This ALA award-winning YA novel by Andrew Fukuda explores the effects of WWII’s impact on Japanese Americans, specifically Alex Maki who fosters an unlikely friendship in his pen pal from France, Charlie Lévy. As the war looms, they hold onto the hope found in each other’s letters.

An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War by Patrick TaylorImage Place holder  of - 85

Even though this is the ninth installment in the Irish Country series, the author, Patrick Taylor, takes us back to before the events of the first book, An Irish Country Doctor, to explore Doctor O’Reilly’s life as a medic during WWII, while also cycling back to two decades later where life seems to be on repeat with an outbreak of German measles, the odd tropical disease, and secrets threatening his new life.

Blame the Dead by Ed Ruggero

And of course, before you can truly enjoy Comes the War by Ed Ruggero, you should read the first in the series, Blame the Dead, detailing Eddie Harkins first brush with investigating a murder mystery at the US Army’s 11th Field Hospital. While book two takes place in England, book one is set in Sicily, and both are imbued with intrigue and suspicion intrinsic only to World War II politics.

Order Comes the War—Available Now!

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Excerpt: Comes the War by Ed Ruggero




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Set against the heroism and heartbreak of WW II, former Army officer Ed Ruggero’s Comes the War brilliantly captures the timeless stories of ordinary people swept up in extraordinary times

April 1944, the fifty-fifth month of the war in Europe. The entire island of Britain fairly buzzes with the coiled energy of a million men poised to leap the Channel to France, the first, riskiest step in the Allies’ long slog to the heart of Germany and the end of the war.

Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is tasked to investigate the murder of Helen Batcheller, an OSS analyst. Harkins is assigned a British driver, Private Pamela Lowell, to aid in his investigation. Lowell is smart, brave and resourceful; like Harkins, she is prone to speak her mind even when it doesn’t help her.

Soon a suspect is arrested and Harkins is ordered to stop digging. Suspicious, he continues his investigation only to find himself trapped in a web of Soviet secrets. As bombs fall, Harkins must solve the murder and reveal the spies before it is too late.

Comes the War will be available on February 9, 2021. Please enjoy the following excerpt of the first chapter!


20 April 1944

0625 hours

There was a white-helmeted American military policeman at the alley entrance when First Lieutenant Eddie Harkins got out of the staff car. He could see the body about thirty feet in, lying next to some rubbish cans; but there was no crowd, not a single curious onlooker, dead bodies having become all too common in bomb-smashed London. Inside the alley, a man in a dark raincoat squatted near the corpse, while another man stood writing in a pocket notebook.

The MP came to attention when Harkins approached, gave him a snappy salute.

“Who are those guys?” Harkins asked the soldier.

“Brits, sir. Detectives. They said the woman, the victim, is American, so they sent for us. Me and my corporal got here a few minutes ago and they told us to secure the alley. Corporal Quinn is down the other end.” Harkins looked up and down the street, blocks of two-and three-story buildings, the ground floors mostly shops, judging by the signs. Not one with all its windows intact. He wondered where the victim had been coming

from or going to.

“They give you their names?” he asked the MP, nodding at the detectives.

“Yes, sir.”

Harkins looked at the man, who said nothing. “Care to share them with me?”

“Couldn’t understand them, sir. I just can’t get the hang of these accents. Sorry.”

Harkins knew how the kid felt. He’d just spent two days in Scotland, waiting for orders, and he’d heard another GI ask, in all seriousness, what language the locals spoke.

He walked into the alley; the detective with the notebook looked up at him.

“You a copper?”

“Yeah. Eddie Harkins. And you are?”

“Just leaving,” the man said. “This is one of yours, and happy to hand it over.”

Harkins wasn’t sure of the jurisdictional issues, but the detectives seemed to be.

The second detective stood up. He was taller than the first one, face sallow, cheeks sunken, like a man with a wasting disease.

“Pulled this card from her pocket,” the tall man said. “She wasn’t carrying a handbag, or at least we didn’t find one. But she had a wallet, like   a bloke’s wallet.”

Harkins took the proffered billfold, an identification booklet inside. Batcheller, Helen. American civilian. The tiny black-and-white photo stapled inside seemed to match the victim, though she looked considerably healthier in the picture. Her occupation was listed as “analyst.” Her employer was the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS, which happened to be Eddie Harkins’ new home in London.

“You a spook, too?” the detective with the notebook asked.

Harkins was looking down at the body, which lay faceup. The woman was missing her right shoe, the left one was worn at the heel.

“What’s that?” Harkins asked, when he noticed the detectives looking  at him.

“You with the OSS?” The one with the notebook was talkative, maybe  a little pissed off. He wore an old-fashioned fedora, the brim pulled down at a jaunty angle.

“Yeah, but I’m a cop. I mean, I was a cop. Then I was an MP.” “But you’re not an MP now?”

“I don’t know yet,” Harkins said. “I just got here this morning.” “First day on the job?”


“Aren’t you the lucky bastard.”

Harkins squatted next to the body, examined the wound,  one  clean slice across the throat. The wide spray pattern of blood on the ground meant the cut most likely sliced both carotids; the killer knew what  he—or she—was doing. The victim’s hands and sleeves were bloody; she had probably made a futile attempt to staunch the flow and save herself    in the few seconds before she lost consciousness. Probably bled out in a minute or two.

“Any theories about where she was coming from or going to?” Harkins asked as he stood.

The man with the notebook said, “That’s your problem now, mate.” “Don’t be an arse,” the tall one said to his partner. Then, to Harkins,

“It’s just that we’ve had a lot of back-and-forth over jurisdiction with you Yanks. Tommy here is a little bit tired, that’s all.”

The tall man held his hand out, and the one named Tommy handed over his notebook.

“Why don’t you take a walk, Tommy? I’ll catch up in a bit.”

Tommy gave Harkins one more sour look, then walked toward the end of the alley.

“Name’s Hoyle,” the tall detective said, offering his hand. “Detective Sergeant.”

“Harkins.” The men shook.

“The way it started, this was back in ’42, any crime where both the victim and perpetrator were American was handled by your military authorities. If a British civvy was involved, either as victim or perpetrator, we investigated alongside your provost marshal. After a while it got so the American investigators were cutting us out altogether if a Yank was involved. Naturally, some of the fellas resented this. Tommy, for instance.” “I see,” Harkins said. And he did. During his time as  a Philadelphia cop he’d seen arguments over jurisdiction break into actual fistfights among detectives.

“Well, this victim is definitely yours, so you’ll take charge of the remains. Tommy and I will do a sweep of the neighborhood, see if we can scare up any witnesses.”

Hoyle wrote something in his notebook, then tore out the page and handed it to Harkins.

“Here’s my number. We’re at the station at Somers Town. Phone me at this number later today, sooner if you find something.”

As Hoyle walked away, Harkins saw the MP at the end of the alley talking to two American officers. A major stepped around the soldier and walked quickly toward Harkins, a captain and a civilian trailing. The civilian was dressed in a rumpled suit and carried a camera. The captain was very tall.

“You Harkins?” the major yelled when he was still twenty feet away. “Yes, sir,” Harkins said, saluting.

“Glad you got my message to get your ass over here. I’m Sinnott; this  is Wickman.”

Major Sinnott did not offer his hand. Wickman reached forward as if   to shake with Harkins, then thought better of it.

That explained the first part of Harkins’ morning. He had reported to the reception desk inside OSS headquarters on Grosvenor Street, duffel bag on his shoulder and exhausted from an all-night train ride from Scotland, only to have the duty NCO hand him a barely legible note with an address he read as, “Cramer’s Pancreas.”

Fortunately the duty driver, a young British woman in the drab uniform of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, deciphered the note and delivered Harkins to Cromer Street in Saint Pancras.

Sinnott was about five ten, same as Harkins, bigger through the shoulders and chest. His uniform, Harkins noted, looked tailor-made, definitely not from some musty quartermaster’s bin. When he removed his service cap to wipe his brow, Harkins noted the jet-black hair, slicked back like Clark Gable’s. Seemed a little fussy for a crime scene first thing in the morning.

“We have an ID,” Harkins said, stepping away from the body as the photographer went to work documenting the scene. “Name’s Helen Batcheller.”

Sinnott stepped past Harkins and bent over the body, cutting the photographer’s line of sight.

“Christ,” Sinnott said. “That’s a mess right there.”

He stepped away, checked the bottoms of his shoes for blood; Wickman did not approach the corpse.

“Know what the maquis call that?” Sinnott asked. He made a slashing move across his throat with one thumb. “A  Gestapo collar. The Krauts  use piano-wire garrotes; tighten ’em up real slow to get the poor bastards to talk.”

Harkins wanted to ask what a maquis was, but Sinnott never paused to take a breath. A real talker, this one.

“We’re going to run this investigation,” Sinnott said as he moved farther away from the bloody mess that had been Helen Batcheller. The photographer went back to work.

“What about the provost marshal, sir?” Wickman asked. He was easily six or seven inches over six feet, rail thin with narrow shoulders and long arms. He spoke softly, as if worried about interrupting someone’s nap.

“They’ve got that new branch,” Wickman continued. “Criminal investigators.”

“Criminal Investigation Division,” Harkins said. “CID.”

The new office—only constituted in January—was allegedly staffed  by trained investigators and responsible for policing the vast numbers of crimes committed by GIs crammed into Britain.

“To hell with them,” Sinnott said. “We’re going to run our own show,  no matter what those CID clowns do. Wild Bill is going to go ape-shit crazy when he hears about this.”

Harkins knew “Wild Bill” was Brigadier General William Donovan, legendary head of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, America’s blandly named spy agency.

Harkins had already held a number of jobs in his twenty-seven months in the Army, but he’d never been, never trained as, and  certainly had never volunteered to become a spy or a spy-catcher. Yet here he was, and the folded set of orders stashed in his duffel bag clearly directed him to report to OSS, London Base. Major Richard Sinnott was his new boss.

“You’re going to have to survey the area,” Sinnott said to Harkins. “Look for witnesses who saw or heard something.”

The response that popped into Harkins’ mind—because he’d been up for twenty-eight hours—was something like, “No fucking kidding.” But he just nodded.

“I can talk to her coworkers and her boss,” Wickman said. Eager. He leaned forward, and Harkins wondered if he had a hard time hearing people who weren’t also freakishly tall.

“Harkins is going to take the lead on this,” Sinnott said. He watched Harkins’ face, gauging his reaction to this news.

Wickman looked surprised. After a few uncomfortable  seconds,  he said to Harkins, “Lieutenant, can you give us a moment, please?”

Harkins walked to the end of the alley near where the same patient   MP stood. It was full daylight now,  and the soldier was stifling a yawn   as Harkins approached. As he expected, the brick walls on either side of the alley carried the conversation between Wickman and Sinnott nearly perfectly. You learned some things growing up in a city.

“Sir,” Wickman said, “I’d really like to get a shot at this investigation. Besides, Lieutenant Harkins was supposed to start training right away for his assignment.”

“That was before one of our people wound up in an alley with her throat laid open,” Sinnott responded. “Besides, Harkins has experience investigating murders.”

“I have three years in the Los Angeles Police Department,” Wickman said.

“Gold shield?” Sinnott asked. He didn’t sound curious, more like he already knew the answer.

“No, sir.”

“You drove a desk, right?”

Wickman didn’t answer. Sinnott called, “Harkins, come here.”

As Harkins approached, the camera’s flash turned the lake of Batcheller’s blood from deep crimson to black.


“You conducted a murder investigation last summer, right? In Sicily.” “Yes, sir. But I’m not a trained investigator.” Harkins almost said, “I wasn’t a detective, either,” but it would have been clear he’d been eaves-dropping.

“I was a beat cop.”

“I heard you have good instincts,” Sinnott continued. “Got that straight from Colonel Wilbur Meigs, who was provost over there for General Patton.”

Harkins remembered Meigs, a World War  One vet who’d come back  in the service to lead the provost marshal’s efforts to maintain law and order amid the chaos of a combat zone. Back in Sicily, Harkins had spent an unpleasant morning with Meigs pointedly reminding him that supposition, guesswork, and half-baked theories were not the hallmarks of a good investigator.

“He’s the one who recommended you,” Sinnott said. “Recommended me for what, exactly, Major?”

Sinnott smiled at him. Probably, Harkins thought, the same way the Romans smiled at a doomed gladiator.

“Don’t worry about that yet. For now, I want you working on this murder. The CID guys will probably show up at some point, but I want you to keep after it, too. Don’t get in their way, but keep after it.”

The three men looked down at the body. Lying on her back, one arm flung to the side and the other across her stomach, Helen Batcheller, late  of the Office of Strategic Services, looked small and lonely. But she wasn’t inconsequential. She was someone’s daughter, maybe a wife, a sister. She was a volunteer, perhaps a critical contributor at OSS, certainly part of the vast footprint of American might come to help save the Old World. And at the end of her too-short life, she was a victim. Now it was up to Harkins to find some justice for her.

Harkins got word that it would be at least an hour before the U.S. Army hospital morgue could send a team for the body. He started pacing the length of alley, looking for clues, pieces of clothing, a handbag, the victim’s missing shoe—anything that might give him some idea of how and why she ended up here.

Sinnott grew bored quickly and left, Wickman and the photographer in tow. The MPs stood at their posts, one at either end of the alley, and after a few minutes the duty driver called out to him.

“May I approach, sir?”

Harkins could not remember her name; she was simply the driver who’d been up next on rotation from the motor pool that supported the American Embassy and OSS staff.

“Sure. Can’t hurt to have another set of eyes help me.”

When the woman drew closer, Harkins saw that she was young, about the same age as his sister Aileen, who would turn twenty-one in September. She wore a loose wool jacket and baggy pants, the bottoms of her trouser legs tucked into canvas leggings. Her face was thin. Like a lot of Brits, she’d probably lost weight since rationing started. Fifty-five months, meat scarce, cheese doled out in tiny bits not much bigger than a sugar cube, endless root vegetables grown in household gardens that might,  during  peacetime,  have  been  rose  beds.  The  Dig  for  Victory posters hanging everywhere always showed a colorful bounty that was hard to replicate.

“What’s your name?” Harkins asked.

She gave him a British salute, palm out, snapping her heels together. “Private Lowell, sir.”

Harkins returned the salute, then stuck out his hand. “Harkins.”

She hadn’t anticipated a handshake and fumbled to remove her leather driving gloves, which made Harkins wonder if British officers ever shook hands with troops. Lowell had blue eyes and fair skin, a spray of freckles across her cheeks and nose. What hair Harkins could see peeking out from under her flat cap was curly, strawberry blond. She could pass for his sister.

“We’re going to walk the length of the alley again, see if anything looks out of place, anything doesn’t belong here.”

“Right. Very good, sir.”

The alley was no wider than ten feet, so Harkins and Lowell were practically shoulder-to-shoulder as they walked.

“You know the area around here?” Harkins asked.

“Saint Pancras? Just from driving, sir. I’m from Holloway.”

When they reached the body, Harkins half expected Lowell to look away. Helen Batcheller’s throat was sliced open, neck muscles and tendons gleaming wet in the dull dawn light. Instead, the young woman squatted down, much like Detective Sergeant Hoyle had done. She kept her knees pressed together demurely, though she wore pants.

“What do you see?” Harkins asked.

“Well, she’s missing one shoe,” Lowell said. She looked around. “I don’t suppose you’ve found it.”


“So maybe she was dragged in here. Bit of a scuffle with the murderer.

Lost her shoe that way.” “Could be,” Harkins said.

“On the other hand, her clothes are blood soaked, but not disheveled.

If there’d been a struggle her blouse would have come untucked.”  Harkins squatted next to the body to confirm Lowell’s observations. “You look a little young to have been a cop,” Harkins said, standing

again. “You an aspiring detective?”

“No, sir,” Lowell said, looking up at him. “I just read a lot of Sherlock Holmes when I was young.”

Harkins chuckled, but Lowell didn’t crack a smile. She hadn’t meant    it as a joke.

“Yeah, of course,” Harkins said. “You want me to walk the alley?”

“Yes, but if you find anything, don’t touch it, okay?” “Certainly, Lieutenant.”

Lowell stood and walked slowly toward the next street, head down, taking her time.

Harkins walked in the opposite direction. The MP—GIs called them snowdrops because of the white helmets—was asleep on his feet. He flinched when he heard Harkins.

“Sorry, sir.”

“It’s okay. I’m only awake because I’m walking.”

Lowell called when the detail from the hospital showed up to retrieve the body. When they met by the corpse, Harkins asked, “Find the shoe?” “No, sir. Can’t imagine where it could be, unless she came here in a car and left it behind.”

Harkins thought about a guy he’d helped apprehend in Philadelphia, a serial rapist. When they searched his room they found a stash of women’s personal items: shoes, underwear, a few dime-store necklaces. The detective on the case called them trophies, something the bad guy had kept to help him remember—and probably fantasize about—his crimes. Harkins did not share this memory with young Lowell.

There were two GIs with a stretcher, a bored staff sergeant overseeing the detail.

“You seen anybody from CID?” Harkins asked the sergeant. “What’s that?”

“Investigators,” Harkins said. “Like detectives.” “No, sir. Nobody here but us chickens.”

Harkins scanned both ends of the alley, wondered if anyone had notified CID, wondered how Sinnott had learned about the murder seemingly ahead of everyone else.

“Ask a doc to take a look at the victim for me,” Harkins said to the sergeant. He lowered his voice, trying to make it harder for Lowell to hear. “I want to know if she’s been raped, assaulted.”

The sergeant looked at Harkins, then at the body. He walked over to where the stretcher lay on the ground and unceremoniously hiked  up Helen Batcheller’s bloody skirt.

“It ain’t brain surgery, Lieutenant. Look, her knickers are intact, still pulled up to her waist.”

Lowell stepped closer, looked at the corpse, then at Harkins. She nodded her head slightly.

Helen Batcheller was beyond caring about her dignity, of course, but  the open-air exam bothered Harkins.

“Okay,” he said. He motioned with one hand and the sergeant pulled the skirt back down. One of the GIs produced a wool blanket and covered the body.

After Batcheller had been carried away, Harkins thanked and dismissed the MPs after writing their names in his notebook, then he and Lowell started back to the staff car a half block away. The vehicle, olive drab with a white star on each of the front doors, was the same shade as every other piece of equipment shipped from factories in the States, all of which were running two or three shifts.

“Here we are, sir,” she said, looking at him over the roof. “Where to next?”

“Why don’t we walk around the neighborhood and see what’s nearby, see where she might have been coming from. Pubs, hotels, restaurants, that kind of thing.”

“Right,” Lowell said. She reached into the car and pulled out a folded map.

“One moment, sir,” she said. She crossed the street to where a man in shirtsleeves was sweeping glass off the sidewalk below a faded sign that said greengrocer.

The businesses on either side were boarded up. A few doors down Harkins saw a shop where the front door had been torn off. A paper sign fluttering in its place read More open than usual.

“They got you last night, I see,” Lowell said to the man. He stopped sweeping and leaned on his broom.

“It was the only shop window left on the whole block,” the man said, surveying the street. “Don’t know how it lasted, but it did. I thought about breaking it meself, just to end the suspense, but the Jerries took me worries away last night.”

“Was there a bomb?” Lowell asked.

Although he was no expert, Harkins thought her accent had changed.

She sounded more like the shop owner and less like the BBC.

“Couple of blocks over. Six or seven of them, I think. Must have been   a lone plane who missed the docks and just dumped his load wherever he could.” The Brits were calling these latest indignities the “Baby Blitz,” which was smaller than the Luftwaffe’s attacks in 1940 and ’41,  but just  as deadly if you happened to be where one of the bombs fell.

A woman came out of the shop wearing an apron, a kerchief covering salt-and-pepper hair.

“Good morning,” Lowell said politely.

“We’re not open yet,” the woman said, none too friendly. “And you need your ration coupons.”

She glanced at Harkins, who leaned on the staff car a few yards away. “I’m sure your Yank could get you a lot more than we have in here.” “Now, Margaret,” the man with the broom said. He sounded a little

apologetic, although Harkins wasn’t sure if he was apologizing to Lowell or his wife.

“I just wanted to ask a few questions about the area,” Lowell said.   “I’m helping the investigator here and we haven’t the petrol to be driving around in circles.”

Margaret folded her arms across her chest and gave Lowell the once over, as if inspecting her uniform. Then she turned on her heel and went back into the shop, muttering something about petrol rationing.

“What do you need to know, my dear?” the shopkeeper asked Lowell. “I’m afraid there’s been a woman murdered not too far from here. An American woman. We’re trying to figure out where she was coming from,

or perhaps where she was going to. Public places, most likely.”

Lowell spread out her map on an empty fruit stand and offered the greengrocer a pencil. He ticked off some public places that Batcheller might have visited on her last night: two pubs, a hotel, a concert hall, and  a church, all within a half-mile radius.

“Thank you, sir, thank you very much. This has been most helpful,” Lowell said.

Lowell showed Harkins the map, and they spent the next hour walking to the various points. Only the church and hotel were open at this hour of the day. The rector hadn’t seen anyone fitting Batcheller’s description, and the hotel turned out to be a tiny place, a dozen rooms with a sleepy desk clerk.

“I’ve been on all night,” the clerk said when Harkins asked. “Quite a few Yanks coming and going, but all with British girls.”

The clerk gave Lowell an oily smile.

“You two need a room?” the clerk asked. “Rates by the hour.” “No,” Harkins said. “So you didn’t see any American women?”

“Like I said, Yank. All British girls. War-bride candidates, I’m sure.” Harkins looked at Lowell, whose poker-face expression hadn’t changed. “Come on,” he said.

They stepped outside into the gray dawn. It wasn’t raining, but  it wasn’t dry, either. The air was filled with mist, a fog shot through with  the smell of pulverized masonry.

“Let’s come back later when the other places are open,” Harkins said. “Maybe we’ll find more people out and about, too.”

They walked back toward the car.

“So what was that back there, with Margaret? At the greengrocer,” Harkins asked.

“Not everyone thinks that women should be in uniform. My mother told me that back in the Great War they had the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps. Some of the men called it ‘the Army’s groundcloth.’”

“Oh,” Harkins said. Soldiers stretched out atop a waterproof ground-cloth when they slept outdoors.

“You’ve been on a crime scene before?” Harkins asked when they were in the car.

“You could say that, sir. My father was an air raid warden in the Blitz.   I helped him pull neighbors from the rubble.” She reported this matter-of-factly.

“How old were you?”

“Sixteen when it started, autumn of 1940, turned seventeen on Boxing Day.”

When Harkins didn’t respond, she added, “That’s what we call the day after Christmas.”

Harkins thought about his three sisters, whose adolescent years were about dances and boys and schoolwork.

“We used to listen to Edward R. Murrow’s reports from London.

During the Blitz, I mean,” Harkins said.

Lowell kept her eyes on the road, her hands at ten and two on the wheel. She hadn’t flinched at the sight of Batcheller’s  slaughtered  corpse, hadn’t complained when the greengrocer’s wife insulted her, or when the hotel clerk made suggestive comments.

“Must have been bad over here,” Harkins said.

Lowell looked at him in the mirror. “Nothing to do but soldier on, I suppose.”

Harkins, who’d been feeling a bit sorry for himself for catching this investigation, for his exhaustion, for the basic fact that he wanted to be    at home instead of driving around London’s gray, battered streets, had to agree.

“I suppose,” he said.

Copyright © 2021 by Ed Ruggero

Pre-order Comes the War—available on February 9, 2021!

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Mysteries & Thrillers We’re Looking Forward to in 2021

When it’s cold outside, is there a better place to be than warm inside and deep in the pages of a thrilling book you can’t put down? From hot debuts to the return of some familiar favorites, Forge has got something for every mystery fan this season.

January 12th

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Julie Carrick Dalton’s searing debut novel is an exploration of female friendships, a love song to the natural world, and a harrowing portrait of what happens when long-buried secrets are unearthed.


January 26th

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February 9th

Image Place holder  of - 55Comes the War by Ed Ruggero

Ed Ruggero’s blistering follow-up to Blame the Dead follows Lieutenant Eddie Harkins on another murder investigation set against the backdrop of World War 2. This time he’s on the case in Britain and finds himself tied up in a web of Soviet secrets.


February 16th

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Jon Land’s first entry in Margaret Truman’s New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series is a thrill-ride from beginning to end. When Robert Brixton uncovers a terrorist plot with unimaginable consequences, it’s a race against time to save the lives of millions.


March 2nd

Image Placeholder of - 32Blood on the Table by Gerry Spence

New York Times bestselling author and trial attorney Gerry Spence’s newest thriller takes us to backcountry Wyoming where an 11-year-old boy takes the witness stand against a vicious prosecutor, corrupt police, and a prejudiced judge to keep his family safe.


The Eagle & The Viper by Loren D. Estleman

Multiple award-winning novelist Loren Estleman’s newest thriller is set in a world of terrorist training camps, international assassins, civilians in danger… and a threat against Napoleon. It’s Paris in 1800 and Estleman reveals just how close our world came to total war.


March 16th

Gathering Dark by Candice Fox

#1 New York Times bestselling author Candice Fox takes you from the gleaming mansions of Beverly Hills to the gritty streets of Compton in her newest standalone thriller. Four “bad girls” – a convicted killer, a gifted thief, a vicious ganglord and a disillusioned cop are a missing girl’s only hope. 


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