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Up Country
By Nelson DeMille
Read by Scott Brick

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Up Country

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Up Country
By Nelson DeMille
Read by Scott Brick
Time Warner AudioBooks, (2002)
An Unabridged Audio Recording on 20 Cassettes
ISBN: 1-58621-136-6
Genre: Thriller

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - March 10, 2002

Be forewarned. This is not an unbiased review of Nelson DeMille's new book, Up Country. DeMille is one of my favorite writers, and if he is not yet yours, he will be after you read or listen to this phenomenal book!

In this novel, DeMille has forced Paul Brenner to come out of retirement to help solve a thirty-year-old mystery. Brenner was last seen in DeMille's novel The General's Daughter. He formally worked as a criminal investigator in the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. As the story opens, we find that Brenner, who had been unwillingly retired from the military, has been leading the quiet life of a couch potato - and it doesn't suit him.

Brenner is abruptly called out of retirement and asked to help solve a 30-year-old murder mystery that might not really be a murder mystery. This mystery revolves around the death of a young man during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Initially, the young officer's death had been attributed as a 'normal' result of having been involved in a horrific firefight. However, a letter written by a North Vietnamese soldier describes an event wherein the young officer was killed by his Captain. When this letter surfaces, thirty-years after the young man's death, the Army opens up an investigation into the case. It is this letter which leads to Brenner being called back to active duty.

In order to investigate this case, Brenner finds it necessary to return to Vietnam to track down the writer of the letter. Vietnam is a country that he last visited as a soldier. As a Vietnam Vet, Brenner's return is surreal in many regards, while also being nostalgic. DeMille, who is, himself, a Vietnam Vet who fought during the Tet Offensive also returned to Vietnam later in life. It is obvious, or at least appears so, that many of the emotions and feelings that Brenner had upon his return to Vietnam were those experienced by DeMille. This 'realness' is well articulated and it greatly enhances an already excellent book.

Up Country is well plotted and the story line is complex. This is a long book, and the audio edition runs for twenty-eight hours. Please don't let its length dissuade you from starting it. DeMille is a skilled writer, and the story will grab you immediately and hold your interest throughout the book. There are some long passages included in this story that provide background information about the Vietnam war, Vietnam's history, and DeMille also provides an ongoing travelogue about the country as Brenner travels throughout Vietnam. While these passages are not necessary components of the story line, they do provide a richness of detail that is all too often left out of modern novels. If you find such detail's boring, you can easily fast-forward through them, but I recommend that you don't.

This is a first class thriller. Brenner is an incredibly intriguing character, as is Susan Weber, the businesswoman who helps Brenner get to the truth surrounding the murder and the reasons behind the Army's interest in investigating what may be a thirty-year-old murder. As well, the mystery that serves as the foundation of this novel is more complex than it first appears. Not everyone is who they appear to be, and unexpected dangers abound, leading to a hair-raising climax.

This unabridged audio edition of Up Country is masterfully read by Scott Brick. Also included is an introduction that is read by the author, himself.

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