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Up Country Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2003
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
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In Up Country, Nelson DeMille cannily revives the army career of Chief Warrant Officer Paul Brenner, the cynical, hardworking Criminal Investigation Division man who was forcibly retired after solving the high-profile killing in The General's Daughter. Brenner's called back to investigate the murder of a young army lieutenant by his captain. The catch is, the crime took place during the heat of the Tet Offensive, and the only living witness was a North Vietnamese soldier who described the incident in a 30-year-old letter that has only recently come to light. Soon Brenner, a Vietnam vet, is on an ostensible nostalgia tour of his old stomping grounds. The trip immediately turns dangerous as he heads "up country" to search for the letter writer, accompanied by a gorgeous American businesswoman, who's hiding more than even the smartest CID officer could imagine.
DeMille, who saw his own tour of duty in Vietnam (and even found a letter on a dead Vietnamese soldier), intersperses historical facts and chilling political possibilities with enough local color to provide some serious flashbacks for his fellow veterans. To non-vets the book may seem very long, but the payoff at the end is worth a couple hundred extra pages. --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
That DeMille has written a sequel to The General's Daughter comes as no surprise; after all, that's arguably his best-known novel because of the hit film version starring John Travolta. Nor is it surprising that he's set this sequel in Vietnam; returning hero Chief Warrant Officer Paul Brenner, Ret., served two stints there during the war, and DeMille himself not only saw action in Nam but returned in 1997 for an extended visit. What is curious, and relatively unfortunate, is that the long narrative focuses so much on travelogue instead of intrigue and action; it's as if DeMille, a wickedly fine thriller writer, has been possessed by the soul of James Michener. Still, the overarching story line captivates, as Brenner agrees to return to Vietnam to track down a Vietnamese witness to a 30-year-old unprosecuted crime, in which a U.S. Army captain murdered an army lieutenant and plundered some treasure. Joined by beautiful Susan Weber, who says she's an American expat businesswoman doing a favor for the U.S. government, Brenner travels to the little village where the witness may still live; along the way, the pair flirt, sightsee, visit a nude beach, sightsee, have sex, sightsee, and talk a lot. The sightseeing carries serious emotional impact as Brenner processes his wartime past and Vietnam's present, and it carries serious risk, as Colonel Mang of the secret police tracks Brenner's and Susan's movements. There's some violence as the two Americans elude Mang and his minions, and a melodramatic finale as Brenner realizes just who the murderous captain now is, and some dramatic suspense as Brenner peels away layers of Susan's identity covers. And then there's blasted, resilient Vietnam, which DeMille captures expertly, in all its anguished pride. With a film version in development at Paramount and the Warner publicity machine working at top gear, expect this engrossing but not exceptional novel to shoot to the top. 15-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
If this were a simple tale of moving from A to B, the book would be half the length it is. But, with the main protagonist returning to the places he "saw the elephant" (experienced combat) the book gets much more involved. Been there and want to re-live it? This is your book. Been there and want to go back? This is your book. Never been there but wonder what it was like and what it took to survive? This is your book. I was especially taken by the psychological insight into war, and what one goes through in these live and death circumstances. This is a powerful and moving book of insight and while the plot is bit simplistic at times, it is twisty and curvy enough to hold your interest and keep you guessing. Well done.
This was thrust upon me by a friend who served there with the words, "I need it back by next week to return it to the fellow who lent it to me. One of the best I have read." Well, it is a 700 pager so the other books I was reading went to the side and I hoped it would hold my interest long enough for me to finish by the deadline. It did. I enjoyed it enough to order a copy of the paperback (850 pages) for a friend whose stories of his service were quite similar.
The thing I liked best about the book was that I, savvy reader that I consider myself, thought I had the ending all figured out - no spoilers here - but the ending twists and turns and surprises and satisfies. I'll say no more except that I thought it was an excellent read and am sorry to see it end.
As a young adult, living during the Vietnamese war, much was familiar such as the names-Tet Offensive, Da Nang, My Lai. Yet, as Paul and Susan drove through the countryside and encountered the Hill people, the geography, the battlefields and the previous history with the French, I feel I have gained a deeper understanding of that period which affected our own national identity right up to today. Nothing is ever clear until one hears both sides and this war had so many unheard voices from the peasant in the field to the soldiers on both sides. To quote a famous American General, "War is hell!" And yet......................