About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Up Country by Nelson DeMille

Up Country by Nelson DeMille (2002) – Paul Brenner has been shoved into retirement from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D.) after the case that formed DeMille’s earlier book, The General’s Daughter. Drifting in his life Brenner is called to a meeting at the Wall, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, on which are carved the names of the 58,000 Americans who died during the war.

His former commander, Colonel Karl Hellmann, calls upon him to undertake a mission to Vietnam. It has been 30 years since Brenner was sent to Vietnam in 1968 as an infantryman with the 1st Calvary Division. Four years later he had served a second tour of duty in Vietnam. During his first tour Brenner had been caught up in the battles of the Tet Offensive.

Hellmann wants Brenner to investigate an incident set out in a letter a North Vietnamese soldier had sent to his brother. The letter writer recounted witnessing in Hue, during the Tet Offensive, an American Army captain murder an American Lieutenant. Hellmann wants Brenner to track down the witness and interview him about the event and see if he can identify the Captain. A reluctant Brenner decides to return to the land which has defined his adult life.

Brenner leaves behind a developing relationship with his former CID partner, Cynthia Sunhill.

On his arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, Brenner finds that Colonel Mang, ostensibly of the Vietnamese Immigration Police, has doubts about Brenner’s claim that he is a veteran returning to his battlefields.

In Ho Chi Minh City Brenner finds a frantic culture embracing Western materialism while still governed by the Communist Party.

While there Brenner acquires an aide and traveling companion, the beautiful Susan Weber.

Trying to maintain his cover story Brenner and Weber leave Ho Chi Minh City. Brenner finds himself drawn into a relationship with Weber who is almost 20 years younger. After a life of short term relationships Brenner falls hard for her.

Brenner and Weber go to the A Shau Valley and the plateau on which the Khe Sanh camp was located and Quang Tri. In each location Brenner re-lives his battle experiences. In my next post on Friday I will discuss DeMille’s exploration of war.

Gradually Weber becomes a true partner in the investigation. She is clever and far better at dealing with the Vietnamese people. Brenner comes to rely on her.

As he pursues the investigation Brenner finds he has been misled by his superiors in Washington. Further complicating the investigation are international diplomatic and business intrigues that will be affected by the results of the search.

Brenner is a dangerous investigator as he is determined to seek out the truth no matter the consequences. The journey of the present equally takes Brenner deep into his past.

The book at 702 pages is a grand historical saga wrapped around an excellent mystery.

I have not found DeMille a reliable read. On this war which was also the author’s war (he was an Army Lieutenant in Vietnam) I found DeMille brilliant. DeMille may not be Brenner but the character he created is alive on the pages.

It was a book where I was drawn forward both wanting to find out what was going to happen next in the story and to learn more about Brenner. There comes a moment for me at the end of a very good book when I pause and say that was special. I had that moment this afternoon. (Dec. 27/12)

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