Friday, February 3, 2017

Book Review: The Valley by John Renehan

The Valley by John Renehan

Hardcover, 433 pages

Published March 2015 by Dutton

>Named one of Wall Street Journal's Best Books of 2015

>Selected as a Military Times's Best Book of the Year

With a title like The Valley you horor readers may think that this was a Bentley Little novel written under a pen name. Nah, this is a novel I learned about from a facebook post by Steal Team 666 author Weston Ochse. Now Weston is a man who served in country and when he praised the book I became interested. Little side note. This is why it is good to support the book-o-sphere by talking about and reviewing the books that you like. This novel would not have been on my radar any other way.

The Valley is a mystery thriller, set against the back drop of the never ending military occupation of Afghanistan. Written by a former intfintry man turned Lawyer the Valley is from what I am told a realistic look at the occupation wrapped in a thriller. Sounded cool to me. This books has more detective novel tropes than war novels ones. That is what makes it interesting.

I suppose it is bot a murder mystery as the investigation that Lt. Black is sent to do is a not a murder. A platoon at a remote outpost is at the heart of this story. A goat at a remote village was killed this has potential to destabilize the remote Valley that gives the novel it's name. No one in the book seems to mind that goat was shot, it was a warning shot and a tribe's dead goat is what sends Lt. Black in to action. Keep in mind he has not left base in a long time, and being sent to investigate something as seemingly trivial just seems like a waste of time. There is of course more going on.

I am trusting that this setting is accurate, the accuracy of the world seems to be there but what do I know. Considering the praise of those who have lived in country I will buy it. The mystery is not about something as simple or standard as a murder. the mystery is complex but it also highlights many of the confusions that come from the culture clash caused by military occupation.

The writing is very good, the prose is simple but driving. Stylized over written prose would work against a story like this. Not to say it is poorly written. Renehan is an excellent writer who unfolds the story close to perfection. The mystery stays intact through 3/4 of the book but we get enough clues to be interested, confused and ultimately paid off.

As a war novel this work is not preachy infact everything it says about the occupation is do very subtly, so don't think Platoon this is more like a mystery that just so happens to be set against the back drop of America's longest engagement on foreign soil. your political feelings wont factor in most readers judgement of this book.

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