Another ambitious descent into the murky waters of crimes past and present from forensic specialist Holland.
A generation ago, an Army Status Review Board reviewed the case of Master Sergeant Jimmy Lee Tenkiller, a Choctaw supply officer missing and apparently deserted from Vietnam. The vote to pronounce the man officially dead was two to one. The dissenter, Col. Paul Fick, has always been haunted by the case for obscure reasons. Back in 1970, right around the time Jimmy Lee went AWOL, a careless mistake sent Fick, then a captain, back stateside with an injury just in time for his replacement to lead his men off to their deaths. Whether or not he was a deserter, Jimmy Lee was no innocent. As a loyal (i.e., bought and paid for) member of the Brotherhood of Five, he was funneling black-market supplies, ammunition and claymores to four officers of the South Vietnamese army and not asking too many questions about what became of the materiel—until the day he suddenly developed scruples and his life became much more interesting. What’s the connection between Jimmy Lee’s false position and Fick’s festering conscience? The question would involve nothing more pressing than ancient history if somebody hadn’t started to track down members of the Brotherhood of Five, most of them grown fat and lazy after settling in America, executed them, then scalped them. Holland calls once more on forensic anthropologist Dr. Robert (Kel) McKelvey, lab director of the Army’s Central Identification Bureau (One Drop of Blood, 2006), this time with decidedly mixed results. The constant shifts in time and place are ungainly, the dollops of service humor and service acronyms labored and the forensic revelations slow to arrive (Kel doesn’t get down to serious work until Chapter 48) and not all that revelatory.
The delayed-revenge plot provides lots of corpses but little outlet for showcasing Holland’s true strengths.