Having taken to the lifestyle of a middle-aged civilian, the last thing Paul Brenner wanted to do was return to work for the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, the agency that thanked him for years of life-risking service by forcing him into early retirement. But when an old friend calls in a career's worth of favours, Paul finds himself moonlighting for the Army as he investigates a puzzling murder that took place thirty years before in the midst of the Vietnam war. Forced to return to the country that haunts him and work for the people who cast him aside, Paul must engage in the battle of his life as he attempts to find justice in a world of staggering corruption.
That DeMille has written a sequel to The General's Daughter comes as no surprise; after all, that's arguably his best-known novel because of the hit film version starring John Travolta. Nor is it surprising that he's set this sequel in Vietnam; returning hero Chief Warrant Officer Paul Brenner, Ret., served two stints there during the war, and DeMille himself not only saw action in Nam but returned in 1997 for an extended visit. What is curious, and relatively unfortunate, is that the long narrative focuses so much on travelogue instead of intrigue and action; it's as if DeMille, a wickedly fine thriller writer, has been possessed by the soul of James Michener. Still, the overarching story line captivates, as Brenner agrees to return to Vietnam to track down a Vietnamese witness to a 30-year-old unprosecuted crime, in which a U.S. Army captain murdered an army lieutenant and plundered some treasure. Joined by beautiful Susan Weber, who says she's an American expat businesswoman doing a favor for the U.S. government, Brenner travels to the little village where the witness may still live; along the way, the pair flirt, sightsee, visit a nude beach, sightsee, have sex, sightsee, and talk a lot. The sightseeing carries serious emotional impact as Brenner processes his wartime past and Vietnam's present, and it carries serious risk, as Colonel Mang of the secret police tracks Brenner's and Susan's movements. There's some violence as the two Americans elude Mang and his minions, and a melodramatic finale as Brenner realizes just who the murderous captain now is, and some dramatic suspense as Brenner peels away layers of Susan's identity covers. And then there's blasted, resilient Vietnam, which DeMille captures expertly, in all its anguished pride. With a film version in development at Paramount and the Warner publicity machine working at top gear, expect this engrossing but not exceptional novel to shoot to the top. 15-city author tour.