Playing the Devil by Grant Campbell

Playing the Devil

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A respected surgeon and decorated Army veteran wrestles with ghosts from the past in this thriller.

Dr. Michael Reece has come far from his early days growing up in an orphanage called Sycamore House. A skilled ob-gyn surgeon and father of two, he’s also a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he lost his lower left leg and earned two medals. Now, for his bravery in action, he’s about to be awarded the highest military decoration: the Medal of Honor. The publicity fervor that ensues throws a spotlight not just on the doctor, but also on Sen. James Haxton of North Carolina, Reece’s mentor and Sycamore House’s benefactor, who is the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Strangely, Reece hasn’t kept in touch with Haxton. But when someone murders the senator in his secluded getaway, Reece must confront a carefully buried past. His survivor’s guilt stems from more than just wartime experience. In his debut novel, Campbell—himself a decorated veteran, physician and member of the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps—supplies insider details that enliven his scenes of battle, surgery and award-ceremony protocol. The story of Reece’s heroism is told too many times, and the level of detail (such as which child sits next to which adult in the car) can bog things down. But when the action does pick up midway, it’s exciting and involving, even if the nature of Reece’s secrets isn’t hard to guess. Once trouble begins, Reece’s reasons for not just going to the authorities are less flimsy than in the usual thriller; they tie in nicely with the leave-no-man-behind ethos that earned him his medals. To some, Campbell’s uncritical presentation of the military and war (though not politics) may seem overly rosy, even sentimental; others will enjoy the sense of brotherhood and respect for sacrifice. A satisfying ending sees an appropriate distribution of rewards.

Overly detailed, but offers interesting characters, plenty of excitement and the pleasure of seeing a complicated plan coalesce.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1482747812
Page count: 492pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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