Thursday, October 06, 2016

Joe Renehan's The Valley

Joe Renehen's The Valley (2015) really grabbed me and didn't let go. It is what you might call a "combat mystery" set in remote Afghanistan. Lt. Black is unlucky enough to get chosen to investigate what looks to be a minor infraction in the furthest outpost imaginable. As I read, I thought Apocalypse Now, which of course was based on Heart of Darkness. In the notes after the book, Renehen is asked about Joseph Conrad, which he says shocked him. Hard to understand why.

The book makes you feel the situation. Renehan served in Iraq and makes the military lingo sound natural and normal. Young kids are soldiers but barely understand what's going on. Those above them are involved in things they don't even know about. Confusion is constant. The sense of isolation is overwhelming.

I really got into the book. My only quibble is the overly mysterious parts of the mystery, where characters talk to each other but we aren't told what they say, where there are knowing glances we aren't allowed to understand, that sort of thing.


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