Book Review: The Deserter by Nelson DeMille & Alex DeMille

Book Review: The Deserter by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille (2019) 4 Stars ****

Nelson DeMille is back in the game with a wonderful new book co-authored with his son, Alex. Remember Private Robert (Bowe) Bergdahl, the army deserter who captured our attention in 2009? Bergdahl deserted his army post in Afghanistan, where, according to Bergdahl, he was held captive, tortured and horribly mistreated by the Taliban for five years. This book uses Bergdahl’s story as a springboard to the desertion of the fictional Delta Force Army elite Captain Kyle Mercer, whose apprehension is entrusted to CID (Criminal Investigation Division) investigators Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor. Clues to Mercer’s whereabouts lead the duo to Caracas, Venezuela, a hell hole of corruption, chaos, drug-trafficking, starvation, kidnappings, torture, executions, prostitution, and sexual enslavement of women and children alike. All I can say is this: The authors painstakingly researched their facts and spoke extensively with expats and other people who are in the know. As any fan of Nelson DeMille knows, if it’s in the book, it’s real. Period.

Why did Bergdahl desert in 2009? He says he was disgusted by his commanding officer’s inappropriate conduct. Why did the fictional Mercer desert his post in Afghanistan? He says he and other soldiers were forced to participate in campaigns to slaughter innocent civilians in attempts at pacification. Captain Mercer’s intention was to leave his post in order to report the atrocities to the higher ups. Things did not play out as he had hoped. Army investigators Brodie and Taylor, decorated veterans, experienced in the way things work in the real world, found evidence of these assertions and the subsequent cover-ups, independent of their conversations with Captain Mercer. They sympathize and identify with Mercer’s plight, but as dedicated CID officers, they are intent upon bringing him and other guilty parties to justice. Justice is served in the end, but not how the reader might expect. In real life, Pvt. Bergdahl received a dishonorable discharge from the US Army, but no jail time. Fictional Captain Mercer’s story ends with justice served in a way that makes sense for him and the other characters. The reader might ponder the question: Is there a right and wrong that can be judged when a soldier is bombarded from all sides— physically, mentally, emotionally— beyond the endurance of even the strongest among us?

Why four stars instead of five? The first one hundred pages are written in a tightly restricted style. The roughly middle third of the book starts to let loose. The last third reflects the style and characterizations we are used to seeing from Nelson DeMille. Scott Brodie increasingly becomes the wise-cracking macho man we’ve seen before in the guise of John Corey, DeMille’s most popular character. Maggie Taylor is not convincing as an army investigator. Much too quiet, submissive, fearful until the end, and not enough take charge attitude. My feeling was that these book sections were written by different people. Sure enough! After finishing the book, wanting to know how much of Mercer’s story was also Bergdahl’s story, I watched some You-Tube videos where the DeMilles discussed their collaboration. Nelson admitted he had started off with a different co-author, then switched to his son. They kept the beginning of the book as it was. It was not authentic to Nelson DeMille’s style. Sorry, Nelson, but I have been a fan for many, many years, and I knew it wasn’t you. Next time, re-write from the beginning!


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I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

February 2020
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