Up Country Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Up Country

Paul Brenner is trying to cope up with his early retirement as a chief warrant officer from the US army, when suddenly his former boss colonel Karl Hellmann asks for a rendezvous at the Vietnam War memorial in Washington. Both Paul and Karl are war veterans and therefore share a strong feeling towards the soldiers who lost their life in the Vietnam War. Karl informs Paul that one of the soldiers listed in the memorial was not killed in the offensive but was murdered in cold blood by his superior officer. Therefore, Paul should visit Vietnam and collect enough evidence so that this superior officer could be brought to justice.
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What surprises Paul is the fact that the whole case is based on a letter that was recovered from the body of a dieing Vietcong soldier by an American soldier. This letter was written to the Vietcong soldier by his brother and narrates the murder of a lieutenant in the US army by his superior officer (in this case a captain). Karl asks Paul to get hold of this soldier who is the only eyewitness to the incident and recover any evidence that this Vietcong soldier may have in the form of dog tags etc. Paul has been an investigator all his life and his instincts tell him that there is more to this case than simple murder investigation. Paul accepts his boss's offer.

His quest takes him to Vietnam. His search for this soldier takes him from Saigon (currently Ho Chi Minh City) located in the south of Vietnam to Hanoi located in the north of Vietnam. During his journey he meets two characters, one is colonel Mang (who has fought the Americans and has no sympathy for them) and the other Susan Weber (a young girl living in Vietnam to escape from herself and who falls in love with Paul). The story ends with a twist, in Ban Hin a small village in North Vietnam. Paul's finding of the identity of the murderer leaves everybody including himself stunned.   
“Up country” is Nelson DeMille at his best. Vietnam is trying to cope with the death and destruction inflicted on it by the war. It also speaks of the thoughts of the Vietnamese people and how they view the western culture. Paul's journey to the battlefields and his interactions with other war veterans visiting Vietnam in the post war era reflects the thoughts as well as feelings of war veterans towards present Vietnam. Along with this DeMille has coupled a mind twisting murder mystery which unfolds gradually with Paul's journey and keeps the reader on his toes.

The review of this Book prepared by Yajnavalka Banerjee

Up Country
Nelson DeMille
Warner Books, Inc., 2002, 702 PP
ISBN: 0-446-51657-0

In February 1968 a North Vietnamese soldier named Tran Van Vinh, wounded and hiding from the American Army in Quang Tri City, witnesses an American Army Captain murder an American Army Lieutenant. Tran Van Vinh escaped from Quang Tri City undetected and, on February 8th, sent a letter describing the murder, to his brother, also a North Vietnamese soldier fighting in the South of Vietnam. In mid-May 1968 Tran Van Vinh's brother was killed fighting in the A Shau Valley and Tran's letter was taken from his body as a souvenir by an American soldier.

Now, almost thirty years later, the American soldier going through his old trunk discovers the letter and sends it to the Vietnam Veterans of America with a request to try to return it to the dead soldier's family. But the letter ends up being sent to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division or CID who turn to recently retired CID warrant officer and Vietnam veteran, Paul Brenner for assistance. There is more to this than a simple murder and the Army wants Brenner to quietly track down the author of the letter by gong to Vietnam as a tourist without official cover.

Brenner goes first to Saigon where he meets and teams up with a beautiful American expatriate, Susan Weber. Together they make their way through Vietnam seeking to locate Tran Van Vinh.   Action, adventure, romance and espionage combine to hold the reader's attention as Brenner and Weber try to maintain his cover as a tourist while trying to find the "needle in the haystack" that will unlock the mystery behind the thirty year old letter.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent

Retired military police officer Paul Brenner is approached by his former commanding officer, ostensibly to investigate the 30-year-old murder of an army officer in Vietnam. Brenner suspects there is more to the mission than meets the eye, but he can't resist the opportunity for a nostalgic trip back to 'Nam at the expense of the US Govt.
The review of this Book prepared by Stephen Coombs

Paul Brenner was forced into retirement after his investigation into the death of a general's daughter (see The General's Daughter by Nelson de Mille). He was a Warrant Officer in the army's Criminal Investigation Division and was good at his job so when his old boss, Karl Helmann, asks him to investigate the murder of a lieutenant, by a captain, in Vietnam, thirty years ago, he accepts the assignment despite having reservations.   Paul Brenner is a Vietnam veteran, as is Nelson de Mille, so this very long book is full of reminiscences as Brenner visits the battlefields, cities and R and R sites he remembered from that time.
The review of this Book prepared by Penny

Warner, Jan 2002, 26.95, 705 pp.
ISBN: 0446516570

    After years as an Army Criminal Investigation Officer, Paul Brenner was forced to retire. His former boss Colonel Karl Hellmann asks Paul to meet him at the Vietnam War Memorial. Karl explains to Paul that an American may have murdered a person listed on the Wall. In 1968, a North Viet Namese soldier Tran Van Vinh witnessed an American captain killing an American lieutenant. Tran sent a letter in 1968 claiming what he saw. This letter has just reached the Criminal Investigation Division. Karl wants Paul to go to Nam to determine if Tran still lives and can identify the killer.

    Paul wants no part of Nam having served two tours there, but reluctantly agrees to travel as a tourist though he believes there is more to the case than a three plus decade old homicide. In Nam, Paul meets Susan Weber, who serves as his translator. Besides the personal nightmares that Paul relives on his journey, he becomes entangled in a murder mystery shrouded inside espionage that reaches into the highest levels of both nations.

    UP COUNTRY is a great thriller that plays out on several levels with each interesting and all tying back to the prime theme of the soul “going home”. On the surface the tale is a cleverly designed mystery with spy and political implications, but it is much more than that. The novel is a character study that provides a look inside a person proving you can go home even if it is never quite the same. Nelson DeMille's tale is bound to make everyone's short list for best book of the year unless 2002 proves to be the equivalent 1939 cinema.

Harriet Klausner

The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner

Chapter Analysis of Up Country

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 40%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 32%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 18% Tone of story    -   Dry-cynical    -   very upbeat How difficult to spot villain?    -   Very difficult--no foreshadowing/clues Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 Spying/Terrorism Thriller    -   Yes Cloak & Dagger Plotlets:    -   govt. doing secret bad things abroad What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   20% Murder of certain profession?    -   soldiers Kind of investigator    -   skilled citizen investigator Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Any non-mystery subplot?    -   wilderness action/adventure Crime Thriller    -   Yes Who's the terrorist enemy here?    -   evil subgroup in own govt Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes Is Romance a MAJOR (25%+) part of story?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Southeast Asia

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Explicit sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   descript of kissing    -   touching of anatomy Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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