Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: The Mourning Man

The Mourning Man
The Mourning Man by D.J. Israel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Espionage/Military fiction Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free ebook copy of this text from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: In March of 1952, the Korean War is raging with a series of setbacks dealt to the United Nations Command by the legendary Chinese General Dehaui. A controversial decision is made by MacArthur and the high command to go behind enemy lines and bring him to Allied Command for interrogation.

Lieutenant J. W. Cavanaugh, a promising young Marine officer, is selected to lead the clandestine mission behind enemy lines not knowing that he and his men have been betrayed to the North Koreans and the Chinese by a double agent. Cavanaugh and his men are lured into a trap and wind up as prisoners of the Chinese. The Chinese want to use Cavanaugh and his men for propaganda purposes.

The Chinese begin torturing Cavanaugh when he refuses to cooperate with them. As the torture intensifies with starvation and beatings the Chinese decide to summarily behead one member right after another of Cavanaugh's squad to force cooperation.

During an airstrike on the POW Camp by Allied planes, Cavanaugh and the remaining survivors of the mission get the upper hand and deal out justice to the Chinese Commander. The double agent, however, gets away during the confusion and escapes punishment.

Thirty five years later, retired Gunnery Sergeant Vanderwegh notices the traitor, Captain Chun, on the streets of San Francisco and attempts to notifiy Cavanaugh by mail that the traitor Chun is in America. V anderwegh journeys to East Texas to visit Cavanaugh and never arrives.

Sergeant Vanderwegh's severed head is accidentally hooked by Cavanaugh's son on a fishing line. The head is covered with what appears to be the residue of some sort of biological weapon designed to cause mass destruction by using the water supply.

It is soon determined that Chun is in America for the purpose of mass murder. Cavanaugh is a man on a mission as he tries to find Chun and prevent the biological contamination of the largest water reservoir in the State of Texas.

My Thoughts: My father was in the Korean war, so I was particularly interested in the beginning of the story. Dad doesn’t talk much about it, but has told some interesting stories the few times he has done so. The memories from Korea haunt Cavanaugh, just as they haunted his buddies, and I think this is made abundantly clear during the course of this book, which is also brutally authentic when it comes to the scenes in the POW camp, so the point where if that sort of thing would trigger something for the reader, I would suggest this wouldn’t be the best book for that reader.

There is one fairly major plot issue I came up upon – at one point, the survivors are listed as Cavanaugh, Vanderwegh, Miller and Holley; later Holley just disappears from the text and Conklin is named as the 4th survivor. Then later on, Holley is back. I’ve let the author know about this (and some other things I notice as I read, such as other changing names and the like), so I imagine a new edition will be put out once the appropriate changes can be made. I would point out that one of those errors shows up in the synopsis – it is not Vanderwegh’s head that shows signs of biological contamination, it is his body, discovered some days later.

Any potential faults due to editing aside, this is a very entertaining story, full of twists and turns. I had no idea who the collaborator was until the same time Cavanaugh figured it out – the deception was very neatly done. With some editing help, this story could be polished into something pretty amazing. If you like tales of espionage and won’t be triggered by the scenes in Korea, you should definitely check this story out.

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