A complex tale about the Iraq War, intrigue, love, and survival.
Gallagher follows up on his successful first book, the memoir Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War (2010), with a smart Iraq War novel that adds something new to the genre—new genres. Gallagher subtly weaves throughout this excellent, brutal tale intrigue, a mystery, and two compelling love stories. The “suck” of war surrounds young Lt. Jack Porter, a platoon commander of 40 men, many rookie “youngbloods.” They’re stationed in Ashuriyah, Iraq, performing “counterinsurgency handholding bullshit” as the military prepares to withdraw from Iraq. A stark desert surrounds them, the heat looms like ”holy venom.” Their checkpoint base, a “desert acropolis” that overlooks the town’s slums, is a mansion Saddam gave one of his generals. Porter is a sensitive leader who wants nothing more than to survive and bring his men home, to leave “having done a good thing…that actually matters.” When a new, more experienced and assertive sergeant, Daniel Chambers, shows up, Porter feels threatened, his leadership challenged. This is when Gallagher’s war novel morphs into a noir mystery. Intense fighting has broken out. Porter hears stories from Iraqis about Chambers having been involved in civilian killings four years ago and having helped kill a powerful sheikh's son. He learns about the disappearance of a Sgt. Rios, or Shaba, the “money man” who once saved Chambers’ life; he just went missing, perhaps kidnapped. Rios was also in love with this sheikh’s daughter. He wanted to marry her and live in Iraq. Porter becomes obsessed with Rios and his involvement with Chambers. Seeking more information, he’s drawn deeper into the lives of the local Iraqis. It means more confrontations with Chambers. It means building new relationships that could jeopardize how well he can lead his men.
A fresh twist on the Iraq War novel adds depth to this burgeoning genre.