Book Review: A Clean Death by Adriaan Verheul 5 Stars *****

Book Review: A Clean Death by Adrian Verheul  (2017) 5 Stars *****

A disturbing but seemingly accurate story of wanton violence in an unnamed part of the world where the guys with the biggest guns and the smallest consciences reign supreme. This almost reads like a memoir rather than a work of fiction. Details, explanations, actions, behaviors, and streams of consciousness that seem to reflect the soul of the author are on point—feeling like a recounting of what actually happened rather than a list of fabricated events. This author knows his stuff.

The author, Adriaan Verheul, ” worked as an academic with the Dutch navy, as a United Nations human rights officer and peacekeeper, World Bank official, and independent foreign affairs consultant. His work took him to conflict and disaster zones on four continents. Somehow, he ended up in the business of demobilizing rebels and soldiers after civil war.”

Oliver, the main character, takes a leave from his position as a banker to recover and bring home the body of his father Johan from a God-forsaken jungle land plagued by violence. Johan was on a mission to supply great sums of money to Captain Christmas, a vicious war lord, in exchange for the surrender of guns. Promises were made, but not kept. Oliver discovers that everyone is on the take—from government officials to the police and morgue employees. Want to go home with your father’s body? It will cost you. Want them to tell you who killed your father and why? It will cost you. Want to meet up with the powerful warlord, Captain Christmas,  who has all the answers? It will cost you. The problem is, money is paid out but answers do not flow in.

A clean death is swift and painless without needless suffering. Johan was shot twice in the heart, giving him a clean death, demonstrating that whoever killed him, liked and respected him. It’s almost a sign of affection and deference in a violent society. Hmmm.

This brings us to Davey, a young, idealistic American proponent of an armed citizenry. He believes that guns are for self-protection and disarmament is a tool of the establishment to suppress its people. Davey travels to the City By the Water to verbally support the armed marauders. You see, Davey has no idea of the horrors Captain Christmas and his terror group have inflicted on the innocent: gutting, body mutilations, rapes, beheadings, parents being forced to eat the intestines of their dead children to name a few. Oliver and Davey cross paths. Davey learns his lesson, and returns to the United States as a broken man. On the other hand, this jungle fiasco acts as a magnet for Oliver, capturing his mind and heart.

I tried to surmise the setting by Googling what I thought might be clues: City By the Water, John Cabrero aka Captain Christmas, V6, Skipper Boutique, Colonel Neptune, local drinks mentioned. Nothing. Dead end. (By the way, the author stated in a published interview response that he actually has met people who go by some of these names.) I entered the topography of the region and got a few bites. By process of elimination, I decided war-torn Africa is a likely location. Further research pointed to Democratic Republic of Congo where a heavy United Nations presence led to more harm than good, according to local officials. This is in the midst of Rwandan genocidal Hutu maniacs fleeing to DR Congo, inflicting even more pain and horrors on their already desperate country. Also ignored are the efforts at peacekeeping, reconstruction of country and military, democratic elections, and the aid in rebel opposition. According to the DR Congo government, the helpers didn’t help—just made things worse. Huh? This little bit of history corroborates the events in the book.

I don’t know if I am correct in my guess of settings. Maybe as a clue or a red herring, the cover photo is attributed to a photo taken at the DR Congo. But, what I do know, like the book and as in real DR Congo history, the government benefitted from the chaos, and they were not sincere in wanting it to end.


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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 2018

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

May 2023
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