By Patrick A. Davis

Putnam Publishing, 1998, (376 pp), $23.95.

Reviewed by Rick McMahan (6/98)

In recent years there has been a slowly developing sub-genre of thrillers and mysteries dealing with the military, particularly heroes of novels being a member of a military investigations unit. Army CID has been the topic of the majority of the novels about military investigators, though with P.T. Deutermann's novel SWEEPERS we were given a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) hero. And now, the Air Force's own Office of Special Investigations (OSI) is given time in the spotlight with its own hero in Patrick A. Davis's first novel, THE GENERAL.

Lt. Colonel Charile Jensen runs a special unit out of OSI's headquarters. Jensen and his unit investigate high-profile and sensitive cases. Jensen and his crew are called out when an Air Force General is found dead in his house. The death of any General officer would make the case high profile, but the General is the Air Force Chief of Staff. And he wasn't just murdered, he was slowly tortured to death over a period of time in his house. The military wants to solve the crime and keep it in-house before the FBI can get involved, so Jensen is under pressure to quickly wrap up the case.

In addition, the investigation is plagued by Command influence. Is someone in power in the Pentagon trying to derail the investigation, because they are the killer? Or is the Pentagon brass just jockeying for political positions and upper hand after the fallout of the Chief of Staff's death, all standard operating procedures for Beltway Bandits, the power brokers in Washington DC. The common thread from the outset of the investigation, floating just outside and operating on the peripheral of the drama is the recurring theme of the Vietnam war.

The dead general was a Vietnam veteran and had recently returned from a top-secret fact finding mission to Vietnam, which was to serve as the beginnings to opening relations with Vietnam. In addition, the way the general was tortured to death is a method used by both sides of the Vietnam conflict, a merciless and painful torture technique to extract information.

But what was the killer trying to find? What secrets did the General have which prompted such a high profile murder? Who's wrath did he invoke?

THE GENERAL is an excellent rookie penning of a new author. There is some minor fine tuning needed, which I think we'll see with his next book, but all of it is minor adjustments authors make as they grow into their authoral voice. I'm betting that we'll see more writing from Patrick A. Davis and I would recommend that you get in on the ground floor with this author's thrilling first novel.

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