Series kickoff follows US snipers in Vietnam, a solitary breed both indispensable and expendable.
Jackson Monroe and Tobias Patterson prowl the Mekong Delta as marksmen who venture into the jungle to pick off enemy targets. They’re the only two blacks in an elite cadre of “silent men,” and segregation from the other snipers bonds them closer than their contrasting personalities normally would. Veteran Monroe has a well-earned reputation for cool unflappability, while volatile Patterson has reflexes to match. The two find themselves caught in a power struggle between two stubborn officers: practical Colonel Lyons, who conscientiously protects the interests of his men, and grandstanding General Vandermeer, anxious for positive war news to send stateside. Monroe and Patterson are given the top-secret assignment of killing their Viet Cong counterpart, a nondescript man named Dac, known as “Black Ghost” for his ability to avoid detection. The mission goes awry when skittish Patterson instead shoots a Viet Cong general named Cho. Dac responds quickly, wounding Monroe. Though the Division Commander orders them to abort the mission, he offers no escape support, and Patterson is forced to leave Monroe in the jungle. Vandermeer and staff immediately go into bunker mode, inventing a cover story for General Cho’s killing—an effort jeopardized by the arrival of dogged New York Times reporter Dan Brady. The narrative splinters into the perspectives of Monroe struggling to survive, Patterson ultimately going to look for him, and (less evocatively), Dac, Vandermeer, and beleaguered Brady, whose violent odyssey, unfortunately, dominates the novel’s last half as he survives Viet Cong torturers and an attempt by Vandermeer to silence him. A finale neatly brings the major characters together and ties up loose ends but strains credibility.
Dickinson, a 12-year Air Force veteran, writes convincingly in a debut that both stimulates and informs—though his portraits of the Times correspondent and enigmatic Viet Cong sniper are generic.