Many believe that the U.
S. left prisoners of war in Vietnam. The premise of MIAs being alive somewhere has colored the diplomacy of the U.
S. toward Vietnam and of course given fiction writers a place in which to let their imaginations run free. Patrick Davis's debut novel is a case in point. There was a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam called Cao Dinh, the very mention of which made the top brass freeze, and others in the Pentagon react very nervously. What happened there? What fearful tragedy hides behind falsified record books?General Raymond Watkins, the Air Force Chief of Staff, has been sent to Vietnam to look around, and presumably to lend his support to diplomatic moves for recognition of that country. Upon his return, however, General Watkins is discovered dead in his quarters. He had been tortured by means common to the North Vietnamese during the war, in which a fish net was put over the victim's skin and drawn tight until the flesh that was protruding from the net could be cut off.
Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Jensen is the officer assigned to the murder investigation, but he finds a paucity of clues. The general's personal computer and those in his office have been fed a virus; some of the hard drives are even removed. Following the general's final phone call from his office Colonel Jensen is led to a Vietnamese restaurant, and ultimately to the murder of one of the owners. This is a fun book to read, for just when the reader thinks he or she knows who the murder mastermind is, that particular suspect turns up dead. But Colonel Jensen plods doggedly on, pursuing the few leads he has. There are lives, reputations, and careers at stake in this mystery, and finally it becomes a test of the colonel's loyalty to the brass in the Pentagon versus his own brand of integrity and patriotism. Make note of this fine new writer this military thriller surely won't be his last.
Reviewed by Lloyd Armour.