Up Country by Nelson DeMille
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“The dead, if they could speak, would tell you why they died, but the living have no answers”
“I make jokes when I’m stressed, and when I sense danger..”
After a gap of almost 4 months, I once again read a political thriller. The last one I had read was “Key to Rebecca” by Ken Follett. But, UP COUNTRY was nothing like it. Moreover, just like Key.., this one would also stay as one of my favourite books of all time.
The plot starts where ex-military CID, Paul Brenner is asked to return to Vietnam, as a favour and to investigate a murder which took place during the Vietnam War. Both, the murderer and the victim were American soldiers, and the witness to the crime was a Viet Cong soldier. Brenner is asked to locate this VC, who currently lives in North Vietnam, to help the investigators to bring justice to the guilty.
Standard stereotype Vietnam veteran plot. But, once I started reading, I realised that whatever I was reading was anything but “STANDARD”. Brenner starts his journey, and starts relieving the war, which he had participated in, almost 30 years ago. Seldom had I read such an absorbing and heartfelt description, of not only the war, but also the emotions a soldier had to go through. Unlike other novels I had read which were somehow connected to Vietnam War, this book provided me with an unusual POV of a soldier. Mr.DeMille was himself a Viet-Vet. So, it’s safe to assume that a lot of emotions portrayed in the book were personally experienced by DeMille himself. As Brenner starts recounting the incidents one by one, or come face to face with the horrors of the war, of what it could do and what it did do to the people who tried to kill one another. Everyone came out, those who could, of the war with a mental and physical scar that would never heal. As once Brenner remarks that a North Vietnamese in modern day would die with an American but would never share the table with a South Vietnamese. Such was the hatred that got imbibed.
The book was a bit low on the thrill quotient. But, then again the memories of Brenner, his conflicting emotions about his female escort, Susan Webber, the country Vietnam were more than enough to hold on to my attention.
Summing up, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Took some time to complete it, but given the fact that the book was 867 pages long and that I didn’t skip a single page. Definitely one of the most original and heartfelt book written about the Vietnam War, where the writer was himself a Veteran. The book presented us with a heartfelt account of the war through the hero, another Viet Vet.
P.S. Literary snobs, who shout that crime fiction is all pulpy and fake, should read this book. Mr.DeMille showed everyone that you don’t have to be a Booker shortlist author to write a heart wrenching account of a sad incident of which he was a part of. All you need is a little bit of courage and desire to tell a story.
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