The Generalís Daughter
By Nelson Demille
(Originally published 1992, re-issued 1999 $7.50)
Reviewed by Rick McMahan
Edcom: Some of the names were changed in the movie. Fort Hadley became Fort McCallum. Ann Campbell became Elizabeth Campbell. But the basic story remains the same.
C.I.D. agent Paul Brenner is working an undercover operation at Fort Hadley in the backwaters of Georgia when the base commanderís daughter, Captain Ann Campbell is found murdered on a rifle range on a remote portion of the base. Since Brenner is an outsider and not part of the base rank and file, his bosses back at C.I.D. headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia decide Brenner would be the perfect candidate to run this highly sensitive and volatile case. Because of the sexual overtones of the murder, C.I.D. assigns another agent as his partner, a specialist in sex-crimes, Cynthia Sunhill. It just so happens that Brenner and Sunhill were once lovers, and it is obvious Brenner has not gotten over his feelings for his partner, even though sheís now married. As they go about trying to answer the question of who killed this literal poster-child of the Army, they discover that Captain Campbell had a dark side to her, one that many people knew about but none spoke of.
Purely from a mystery novel standpoint, The Generalís Daughter is one of the most well-written mysteries to come along in a long time. I first read this book when it was published in hardcover. I was knocked out by the writing. I love the style and personal flair Demille was able to inject into this novel.
Essentially Paul Brenner is a wisecracking detective from the old hardboiled genre, but Demille breaths new life into this type of hardboiled mystery with his unique setting and the highly individual voice of his main character.
A few final and random thoughts about The Generalís Daughter. Rumor has it that Demille has signed an agreement with Michael Douglas Productions, so we may be seeing this novel adapted to the big screen. Iím cringing inside. I hope they do a good job, but we all know that rarely does a movie do an excellent book the justice it deserves.
Since reading The Generalís Daughter, every time I work with a C.I.D. agent, I usually ask if theyíve read this book, and an overwhelming percentage have, which makes me wonder if the Army C.I.D. makes it mandatory reading in their academy. When stationed in Georgia, another investigator and myself had occasion to go to Fort Benning, the true home of the infantry, to work on a case and we interfaced with the C.I.D. there. An agent said that Fort Hadley is nothing more than a renamed Fort Benning; that Demilleís description of the rifle ranges and of the Generalís residence on base were exactly the way those features are in real life at Fort Benning. And finally, Congress did pass legislation to create another grade of Warrant Officer, so now agents no longer need to asphyxiate from holding their breath in anticipation. For those of you who have read the book, you'll get the joke. For those that haven't read it yet, read The Generalís Daughter and listen to the voice and wisdom of a weathered war horse, Paul Brenner.
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