From the author of the Lewis Cole mysteries (Killer Waves, 2002, etc.): a hair-raising thriller about Vietnam MIAs who, it turns out, were never more than semi-missing.
Jason Harper—husband, father, publisher of the small but growing Berwick (New Hampshire) Banner, a young man very much settled in his life—hears his doorbell ring late one night and, a bit nervously, goes to answer. When he opens the door, he also, in effect, opens Pandora’s Box, for the person standing outside has trouble written all over him. But, it develops, there’s joy, too, in fact an almost inexpressible degree of happiness. About thirty years before, Captain Roy Harper, bomber pilot, went missing in Vietnam after his B-52 crashed. That was Jason’s adored older brother, deeply grieved over but then eventually relegated to that catch-all compartment labeled “things one needs to get past.” Now this man—elderly, shabby, worn—identifies himself as the long-lost brother. And he’s convincing, possessed of details (a boyhood paper route, the name of a first-grade teacher, certain private embarrassments) half-forgotten by Jason himself. The story Roy tells to explain his prolonged absence is at the very least alarming. He’s been tortured, systematically humiliated by an implacable enemy—he in company with a hundred other downed fliers, whittled down to 36 by time and brutality. Who exactly was this enemy—that is, who beyond the obvious and predictable? It takes a while for Roy to tell his story, but when Jason begins to understand it (not easy) and to believe it (unwillingly) he’s distraught, a condition substantially worsened when Roy gets around to explaining his mission and making clear the key role he expects Jason to play in it.
Not always plausible, but the story grabs, and the pages turn, testimony to the power of the narrative.