bookrev: Up Country by Nelson DeMille

5 stars: Great scenery, good story, good characters; fascinating picture of Vietnam

As a writer, every so often I come across a novel that either makes me realize how much I have to improve, or makes me want to throw in the towel in awe. Up Country by Nelson DeMille makes me want to do both. For 800+ paperback pages, I was all his; except for two slightly long descriptive chapters, I didn’t want to put it down.

The story of Paul Brenner, Vietnam veteran, recently retired from CID (the military investigative arm, where he did most of his damage in Mr. DeMille’s earlier novel The General’s Daughter) sends Paul back to Vietnam for a third time (after two tours of military duty during the Vietnam war) to investigate a possible murder of a US Military officer by another, witnessed by a North Vietnam soldier. As Paul revisits and sometimes relives his past experiences in Vietnam, he learns more about the murder, and it, and his “assigned companion” Susan Weber, are not what they seem. He travels from Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, to Hue near the DNZ, into NW North Korea near Laos, and onto Hanoi, learning about himself, Susan and the objects of his investigation.

The novel is a murder investigation, a Vietnam war retrospective, a travelogue, a love story and an adventure all rolled seamlessly together. Though the end of the novel happens too quickly, with many questions left, it is an enjoyable read.

Highly recommended.

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