Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf ~ Featuring Richard North Patterson and Sarah McCoy

By Lynn Willoughby

In the Name of Honor ~ Richard North Patterson

This is a legal thriller where most of the action takes place in a courtroom. Lt Brian McCarran is on trial for murder and adultery. Both criminal acts in the military.

I’m not usually a fan of courtroom drama, but the military component made this novel interesting. There is a different skew in military trials and sentencing, and the REAL drama here has to do with PTSD. Is it really a mental disorder? Is it grounds for leniency or at the very least, a factor in sentencing?

Because all of the main characters are in the military and have been for generations, we get a flavour of the war in Viet Nam from McCarran’s father. However, it is Brian’s time in Iraq that is the crux of this story – and the trial.
It is a multi-layered plot dealing with suicide, military justice, politics, bureaucracy and dysfunction in the military. War, whether in Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan, training to be lethal in the martial arts and the toll it takes make this hard going at times. We know there is nothing new here – this type of training was also part of WWII (think of the Green Berets), but that does not make it any easier, especially when faced with the fact that “…the US is singularly unsuccessful in dealing with tribal cultures…we invade a country to save them and then are amazed that saved people despise us and fight back.”

The year McCarran spent in Sadr City and what he and his platoon were forced to endure is the stuff of nightmares! The research done by Patterson on PTSD was extensive and very real, especially when those suffering reached out for help and were put on a six month waiting list. Very disturbing! However, I highly recommend it.

  • The Spire
  • Fall From Grace

The Baker’s Daughter ~ Sarah McCoy

A World War II novel from a different perspective. The location is in Garmish Germany, the protagonist is Elsie, a baker’s daughter who is seventeen and waiting for her life to begin. Her friendship with Josef Hub, a rising star in the army of the Third Reich, ensures her father will have the ingredients he needs to bake bread.

Her family seems very isolated from the terror and desperation overtaking Nazi Germany, even though Elsie’s older sister, Hazel, has been taken away to become part of the Lebensborn – a breeding program to create the perfect Aryan race.

Elsie has her chance to shine when she is invited by Josef to attend a Christmas Eve party. He even buys her a cocktail dress. Then things start to fall apart. He gives her an engagement ring at the party and assumes she will fall over herself to marry him. Instead, she runs outside for some fresh air, is almost raped by a fellow officer, but is saved by a six year old Jewish boy. He follows her home and she secretly hides him in her closet. How can this child be the evil claimed by the Third Reich?

This is a fascinating journey through a horrifying time in history. It is offset by the after story – Elsie’s life in America 60 years after the war. Here it is also Reba’s story, how she grew up in a household with a father forever changed by his war experiences in Viet Nam. Just to complicate things further, Reba’s boyfriend, Riki, works for the US Border Patrol. His conflict is between Mexican immigrants attempting to cross into the USA, and how in fact, his family was once one of those people.

So, there is lots of conflict to go around. I really wanted more of Elsie and less of everyone else. Nevertheless, it is an interesting read and shows us the importance of connecting with the older generation.

  • The Mapmaker’s Children

Who Knew?

Methamphetamine was widely used during WWII when both sides needed to keep troops awake and euphoric. Very high doses were given to Japanese Kamikaze pilots.

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