From a first-time novelist, a military thriller packed with action and mystery.
The story begins and ends with relative quiet, but the reader hungry for action need not worry. Lt. Black is stationed at the relatively safe Forward Operating Base Omaha in Afghanistan when he gets randomly assigned a 15-6 investigation, “the commander’s initial inquiry into possible wrongdoing.” Apparently, an Afghan village chief in Nuristan complained that an American soldier accidentally killed a goat. Black’s job is to fly to Combat Outpost Vega “up the Valley” and speak to everyone, gather facts about the apparently minor case and report back to headquarters. Once Black arrives, most of the soldiers refuse to talk to him, and the NCOs are openly hostile and disrespectful. They are rough people in a rough place. There are many valleys in Nuristan “where people died hard deaths,” but “there was only one Valley….It was the farthest, the hardest, and the worst.” Surrounded by the lurking Taliban and aggrieved villagers all close by, the American soldiers (and readers) are guaranteed all the excitement they can handle. Never what it had seemed in the first place, the situation deteriorates rapidly. The combat scenes are intense, believable and frightening. The troops need to call for help, but will they get through? “Communication was life,” the narrator notes as the Americans try to fight off an attack, and “there was no pay phone in the Valley.” “What the hell,” one character asks, “is the end of the world?” Clearly, it’s the Valley in Nuristan. There are a few points of confusion in this fast-paced drama, but whether that’s in the telling, the reading or the fog of war, they detract little.
A must-read if you want a glimpse of the turmoil Americans faced in Afghanistan or if you just want a page-flipping good yarn.