THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER by Michael Hastings


Email this review


Absorbing suspense thriller with a Vietnam War background. Walt Meredith, ex-CIA agent, is now director of Missing in Action Affairs in the Pentagon. He bears the terrible burden of his own son's death, brought about in part by his own example as a daring Marine officer in Korea: son Benjamin, grew up with a fervent desire to be like his often-absent Dad and thus had volunteered for the Green Berets and died in a Vietnam jungle. Nine years later Meredith is still seeking the more than 2700 MIAs: by helping the MIA families he hopes to atone for his being away in Europe playing cloak-and-dagger games, when he might better have been home raising his son. Meredith has spent endless hours in Honolulu's amazing Central Identification Lab, helping Dr. John Natua identify bones of MIAs shipped to his lab from Vietnam, and now President Reagan is determined to have a tomb for the Unknown Soldier of Vietnam, with a set of identitiless bones in Natua's lab selected for entombment. Meredith investigates the bones and finds they belong to one Andy Cunningham, son of a WW II hero who climbed the cliff at Omaha Beach on D-Day. But ballistics show that Andy was apparently shot down by his own Marine team at Na-San. Is it possible that he was a traitor and not deserving of burial at Arlington National Cemetery? Meredith's investigation leads him to other members of the Minerva team that Andy was part of, but Pentagon officials have veiled the facts, and all the Minerva team members are either dead or are stonewalling. In his obsessive search for the answers, Meredith sacrifices his clearheaded girlfriend and risks his job and his life. When the answer comes, in a confrontation brilliantly placed in the Omaha Beach military cemetary, with Andy guilty to one generation of Americans but not to another, it places Meredith squarely into an unresolvable dilemma. Complex, well-written, even poetic here and there, but not inspired.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1986
Publisher: Macmillan