Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Read: "Hell Hole" by Chris Grabenstein

Read: Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein, 2008, 9780312382308.

Very good. Better than the last one in the series. This felt a little darker themed, too.

Danny Boyle and John Ceepak are still partnered in the seaside resort town of Sea Haven, New Jersey. Boyle is still maturing as a full-time cop and Ceepak is recently married with a 17 year old stepson.

Boyle is called to a noise complaint during the summer. The complaint is for a loud party several soldiers are throwing for themselves in a rented house. While Boyle is there one of the soldiers gets a call that a unit member committed suicide in a rest area just a few miles away. Boyle leaves the party to drive a sergeant to identify the body at the scene. Boyle is sickened by the suicide-by-gunshot crime scene but recognizes that something is out of place. He takes a couple cell phone photos and talks about it to Ceepak.

Ceepak, of course, recognizes what is wrong and recognizes this was a murder. Ceepak finds a way to get involved in the investigation and becomes even more involved when finding out the dead soldier is the guy Ceepak rescued from a shoot-out in Sadr City that resulted in Ceepak's Bronze Star. Ceepak had forgotten the dude's name while blocking out most of the bad stuff from Iraq.

I won't go into the plot too much but Grabenstein plotted out a good story. An evil Senator. PTSD. Ceepak's drunken and estranged father showing up. Boyle's advancement in proficiency and ability. (I asked Grabenstein about that in October, '08 and he said he plans to keep Boyle as Ceepak's helper and assistant. Grab. has no plans to have Boyle advance as a level peer with Ceepak investigative skill and fervor.)

There were a few holes or goofy parts, like when one of the soldiers scores heroin and almost dies in an arson set fire intended to kill him. That seemed a stretch. I felt that whole fire scene may have been a chance to write some NYFD friends into the book. (That and show how the soldier was in trouble from his pals, but still...)

Two things that did annoy me:
1) At the end Grabenstein devises a way to get all the characters in the same room for Ceepak to reveal what really happened. That's fine. But, it was then I realized that the whole conspiracy attempt was overblown. They set the dead soldier up to shoot him in the face. The conspiracy devised a way to set-up the Dead Soldier with some new heroin to to shoot-up so he would high as kite and easy to kill. Why not just give him another dose of heroin, or mix in a shot of cocaine, to give him a death by overdose? Why all the blood and drama?
2) Snipers with lasers on their rifles. Aside from range finding what sniper uses a laser?

One last aside. The plot revolves around crimes committed in Iraq by the soldiers. I read a really interesting comment about military justice a few months ago. In the U.S., and some other western countries, crimes by military personnel are investigated and prosecuted. The events are generally not ignored, hidden, or skewed. The commenter pointed out how this is a relatively recent concept and that it is an incredibly admirable aspect of the U.S. Army. The winning army isn't pursuing kangaroo courts over the losers and holds it's own soldiers accountable for their actions.

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