THE KNIFE by Ross Ritchell


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An account of the long stretches of boredom and short bursts of adrenaline that make up a Ranger team’s deployment in Afghanistan.

Former Army Ranger and combat veteran Ritchell delivers a war story about the mind-numbing periods of waiting, the stress of battle fatigue, the ingeniously idiotic ideas that fill downtime and the spine-tingling moments when life is ever so fragile. When we meet Ranger team leader Dutch Robert Shaw, he's ruminating over coffee about the loss of his last family member, the grandmother who raised him. His reflection is cut short by the call for an immediate redeployment to an ambiguous stretch of battle-torn Afghanistan. Unlike many frenzied accounts of war, this story flows at a comfortable tempo with plenty of time to describe the poker games and discussions about higher education that fill the long flight into a war zone. Once on the ground, the five-man Ranger team spends its time in the FOB (forward operating base) packing seemingly endless amounts of chewing tobacco and devising childlike dares. There's no rush to get to battle scenes, but when they arrive, Ritchell describes night operations, “snatch and grab”s and the elimination of HVTs (High Value Targets) without false bravado, while still broadcasting the immense skill possessed by these soldiers. He draws the high drama and moral complexity of the Rangers' life on the front lines from a place of narrative distance, allowing the reader to fill in the unstated emotions of Shaw and his team, giving their story great poignancy.   

A beautiful book about the soldiers who sit on the front lines of the U.S. military machine.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-399-17340-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2014


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