By MICHELE HEWITSON
At just over 650 pages, you wouldn't slip Up Country into your beach bag. For one thing you couldn't eat an ice cream and read it at the same time. Good for weight training though.
For all that it looks and sounds like hefty junk, Up Country is pretty good.
Read the blurb and you think you're in for one long propaganda exercise: former Army cop Paul Brenner accepts a mission to return to Vietnam where he served in a frontline infantry company. He meets his former Army commander at the memorial wall in Washington where he is told that one of the names on the wall belongs to a soldier not killed in action but shot by his captain. A letter has been intercepted by the United Sates Army which sets out in detail the incident as witnessed by a former Vietnamese soldier. The Army wants the witness found and, well, dealt with in some unspecified fashion.
Brenner who quit his commission in a huff some months ago, is thought to be the ideal pawn. As his commander observes, "Your sarcasm and sense of humour haven't changed."
Some of this is mightily predictable: Brenner is set up with a beautiful woman who turns out to be a spy. He gets into terrible trouble in Vietnam with the country's top cops (there is, of course, a grudging admiration between former soldiers) and he'll have to face his private demons.
But it really does fall into the ripping-yarn category: it has a sense of humour and Brenner is indeed relentlessly sarcastic.