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Up Country: A Novel
By Nelson DeMille

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Up Country
Large Print Edition
By Nelson DeMille
Warner Books - Large Print, (2002)
ISBN: 0-446-52993-1
Genre: Mystery - Thriller

Reviewed by Herbert White - August 25, 2002

After reading Up Country, I discovered that Nelson DeMille is one of my favorite authors. This is a fact that I was previously unaware of and I plan to go back and read all of his previous works to see if Up Country was just a fluke, or if all his books are as compelling and well-written as this one. I'll let you know how my investigation goes, but I have an instinctive feeling that I'm going to be rather pleasantly surprised...

In Up Country, I found that DeMille has woven together an intriguing story that instantly griped the imagination. So much so that I was pulled into the story to such an extent that I could even feel the texture of the seat cushions every time Paul Brenner sits down. The dialogue was lifelike, as were the characters. Best yet, the story was so enthralling that I quickly forgot that the book weighted a ton! The large print edition runs to 1170 pages, and not being as young I use to be, it was a might heavy. However, I found that not only did I get to build up a few muscles reading this book, but that I also got to exercise my mind a bit as I raced through this intricate novel.

The story centers upon Chief Warrant Officer Paul Brenner, retired. Apparently Brenner was forced into retirement sometime after he first appeared in DeMille's book, The General's Daughter. Brenner has not found retirement to his liking. When his old boss calls him in and asks him to investigate a 30-year-old murder mystery, he is a little too eager for his own good. And before he can shake the sawdust from his head he finds that he has been called back to active duty and is once again working for the Army's Criminal Investigation Division - and headed to Vietnam.

Apparently the Army has come into the possession of a letter written by a North Vietnamese soldier that describes how he witnessed an American Army officer murder one of his own men. This is suppose to have occurred during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Historically, the Army knows that the young man in question, a junior officer, did indeed die during the offensive, but is it possible that his commanding officer really killed him? And if so, how to you go about investigating a murder that took place during a horrific battle thirty years past?

This is the task that Brenner, a former Vietnam Vet himself, has undertaken. It is a task he might have refused if he had known that he was to be partnered with Susan Weber, a businesswoman with secrets of her own. To solve the mystery surrounding this young man's death, Brenner and Weber mush travel the length and breadth of Vietnam, trying to hunt up the Vietnamese officer that wrote the letter that brought the death into question. If they can prove that the lieutenant was indeed murdered, they must also try to prove why it happened.

There are so many twists and turns in this book that you'll be kept guessing the whole way through as to whether or not the young man was killed, and if so, why. Along the way you also get a detailed tour of what the Vietnam of today is like, along with DeMille's memories of what it was like during the war. It is easy to suppose that portions of this book are somewhat biographical as both DeMille and his lead character, are both Vietnam Vets, and both made a return visit to the country years after the war had ended.

This book is well worth the reading for a number of reasons. Most important, it is not only a finely crafted mystery, but it is also a compelling historical novel that takes a realistic look at how Vietnam has recovered, so far, from decades of unremitting warfare. Up Country is also a page turner, full of adventure and danger and intrigue, and it is a book that will translate very nicely onto the silver screen someday...

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