When Lieutenant Gavin Kelly's recon platoon swims ashore a Mogadishu beach under the glare of hundreds of news camera lights, it is an appropriately surreal beginning to Operation Restore Hope. This modern war is vastly different from the battles Kelly's father and grandfather fought and from the young lieutenant's own experience during Operation Desert Storm. Minutes after the Marines' celebrated landing, one of Kelly's men kills an armed Somali bodyguard. The circumstances of the killing are unclear and Kelly finds himself in the center of a maelstrom. He must act quickly to deflect a vociferous outcry from members of the international press corps, censure by his Marine superiors, and the possibility of losing the loyalty of his men -- particularly two enlisted leaders in the platoon who have vouched for the necessity of the kill.
Thus begins Sharkman Six, a stinging morality tale in which Kelly is torn between his men, his confusing mission, and the international rules of engagement he has sworn to uphold. As his platoon descends into the lawless, violent underbelly of Somalia, Lieutenant Kelly must determine his own values -- and allegiances -- in a country where murders are commonplace and constant.
With heart-pounding, intricate military detail, rapier wit, and stunning verisimilitude, Sharkman Six speaks to the violent urges lurking in us all and the lengths to which we will go to control them. In Gavin Kelly, West has created an authentic, sympathetic, and wholly compromised young officer of war who will put you in mind of the best of military heroes and antiheroes.
Former Marine West shows staggering insight into the demoralizing dangers of Third World police duty in this powerful debut chronicling the clash of Marine vets and armed warlords in Somalia. Lt. Gavin Kelly went from Harvard ROTC to Desert Storm success, but lost a Marine under his command and wants to assuage the guilt with his latest mission protecting Red Cross food distribution in Operation Hope. All goes wrong from the very beginning, when a team member kills an armed Somali who turns out to be a reporter's bodyguard. The reporter in question, Mary Thayer-Ash, is convinced the killing is not the accident it is claimed to be, but is diverted by brass. In the field, the going gets even rougher when Somali warlord Muhammad Farah beheads a woman for her ration just outside the food compound, but Kelly's men can't retaliate unless personally threatened. Locals who know the rules play to the media, and things get dangerously personal when the Marines become attached to Little Joe, a frail Somali teen orphaned by Farah who becomes their translator and gets street intelligence on plans to bomb the compound. The combat scenes and face-to-face battles are eyewitness-horrific, and Kelly is a compelling everyman, always comparing himself to his war hero grandfather and Vietnam vet father. The novel makes plain the complex no-win strictures of do-good, media-moderated conflict, and a perfect, stunning conclusion leaves the reader revved for more from this engaging author.