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The General's Daughter Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1993
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Long before the John Travolta film of The General's Daughter (which the author extols in the foreword), Nelson DeMille's seventh mystery was the breakout hit of his career. The rapid-fire dialogue and scenes are cinematic, and the storytelling puts most movies to shame.
The book has three heroes: Paul Brenner and Cynthia Sunhill of the army's Criminal Investigation Division and Capt. Ann Campbell, found dead with her underpants around her neck on the firing range at Fort Hadley, Georgia. Brenner and Sunhill are lowly warrant officers, but as investigators they can theoretically arrest their superiors--as long as their case is airtight. This ups the tension level, as does the fact that Brenner and Sunhill once had an adulterous affair.
The chief problem, though, is too many suspects. Capt. Campbell, the daughter of the general who runs the base, is literally a poster woman for the New Army, a West Point grad and Gulf War hero who posed in a life-size recruitment poster. It's pinned up on her basement wall--and when the sleuths touch the poster it swings back to reveal a hidden playroom stocked with sex toys and videos of many army guys in pig masks and the captain in high heels. She was a high-IQ "two percenter"--and Brenner finds that two percenters often wind up on his desk as homicide suspects. Why is this one a victim? It has something to do with the collected works of Nietzsche on her bookshelf, corruption in high places, and the rag and bone shop of the heart.
This is one racy read, and it crackles with authenticity. DeMille is a Vietnam veteran who does for military justice what John Grisham does for civilians. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
After the wit and panache of his bestselling The Gold Coast , DeMille's latest effort may disappoint his fans. The author returns to his more customary stylish-suspense-novel mode but retains a smart-aleck narrator--here, Paul Brenner, of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. At Fort Hadley, Ga., Ann Campbell, daughter of the post commander, is found murdered under bizarre circumstances. Brenner learns that Ann's entire personal life, in fact, veered toward the bizarre; she even had a secret basement "playroom" in her home. Moral turpitude runs riot at Fort Hadley, and Brenner must wade through muck of all sorts to discover the killer's identity. Too much muck, as it turns out: the detective work becomes repetitious, and suspense is unfortunately in short supply. Brenner's one-liners have none of the punch of John Sutter's wry observations in The Gold Coast --indeed, the device of a waggish narrator doesn't fit these proceedings; the wisecracks seem grafted on. So, too, does a resumed romance between Brenner and an old flame--we don't get a good enough picture of either to care about whatever sparks might fly. Characterization in general is fuzzy, though DeMille captures the often unquestioning regimen of life on a military base. One only wishes that his tale had more spirit and dash. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
Rather graphic at times, which seemed at times gratuitous, and while an important part of the plot, again seemed to slow the book down and almost made me want to put it down (almost), and certainly would be a complete turnoff to anybody with more delicate sensibilities.
In the end though, Demille offers up enough suspects to keep you guessing until he is ready to let you hone in on the killer about 3/4 of the way through, and even then, because of the subplots you are never quite sure how it will turn out until the end.
While I note things like "dragging" and "slow" in descriptions above, I should point out this is in contrast to other Demille books I have read recently (Plum Island, The Lion's Game, Wild Fire), it was still an relatively easy read and page turner, and a self confessed "non-reader" still breezed through this in about 7 days of evening time reading. I guess some would describe this as "summertime reading" and if that is what you enjoy (and of course a good mystery) then this certainly fits.
Dark with psychological undertones that emerge and deepen as you read (you wouldn't want it all handed to you from the outset, would you?!?) this is an outstanding story and is - like most good novels - infinitely better than the movie (which isn't bad either).
Brenner is assigned to investigate a politically sensitive case, the bizarre rape-murder of Captain Ann Campbell, a graduate of West Point, the army's poster girl, and the daughter of a legendary and highly regarded general. Brenner's assigned partner on this case turns out to be none other than his former lover, rape specialist Cynthia Sunhill. As they begin their investigation, information that does not jive with the image of the deceased keeps popping up. Moreover, they run into some stonewalling that does not sit well with Brenner. Clearly, something is wrong with the facts as originally presented. Intrigue and deception seem to be everywhere.
Brenner, however, is determined to solve the case before it is taken away from him by the FBI. He smells something fishy and he doesn't much like it. Moreover, he senses that there is something corrupt that permeates the surrounding facade of honor on that Army base, based upon what has come to light about the apparent double life Ann Campbell led. Brenner is convinced that this corruption is at the heart of Ann Campbell's murder.
Though not one of my favorite Demille books, it is still an enjoyable read. The main protagonist, Paul Brenner, is a well-fleshed character and likable. The mystery, however, seems a little forced, and the tawdriness of the life led by the deceased is depressing. Notwithstanding this, it is still a pretty good read from a master storyteller.