Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of their Own - Cilla McCain


I have a penchant for true stories...memoirs, biographies, and above all else, true crime. Knowing the documented events actually occurred inspires a need to know more; to understand human frailties. Why did this happen? What sickness or deadly sin drove the crime to occur? What was the outcome? How are the families coping years later? When approached to review McCain's account of an American soldier murdered by four of his own men, I knew there was no way I could walk away from this one. This is a story that needs to be told.

When Richard Davis was reported as AWOL after he returned from Iraq on leave, his father Lanny knew something was wrong. Richard was an upstanding kid...fiercely loyal to his country and his parents. He would never shirk his responsibilities as a son and a soldier. So Lanny began to search for him, and assumed as a retired military officer himself, he would find help from his brotherhood. He was wrong. He was faced with a total lack of cooperation from the highest ranking officers on down. Calls were not returned, stalling and intimidation tactics were used, so it took months before Richard's body was actually found, brutally stabbed and burned in a wooded area outside Fort Benning, GA. A crime of intense hate.

What unfolds from thereon is a twisted, shocking story of a young man, Richard Davis, bullied by a gang of his fellow soldiers with a history of violence, depression and attempted suicide. A story of previously unstable soldiers under additional pressure, with shortages of food and water, exposed to superiors committing unforgivable war crimes. Yet none of these issues were addressed. Even when the murder was being investigated, the members of Baker Company were so terrified to tell the truth, they instead wrote an anonymous letter simply signed "Men of Baker Company". Throughout the story, one starts to get the sick feeling that there is alot of dirty little secrets that the military would like to keep to themselves, and would go to lengths to keep it that way.

The final nail in the hearts of Richard Davis' parents is threefold. First, the ringleader of the four murderers plea-bargained and received a much lesser sentence. Second, after all of the political maneuvering and legal protection of the plea-bargainer, they never really got any answers to WHY their son was brutally murdered. And third, they had to fight to get their son's remains released for burial long after the trial concluded. The injustice never ended for them.

It is interesting to note that this story caught the attention of writer/director Paul Haggis, who used elements of the Davis case to film the Oscar-nominated movie In the Valley of Elah.

My husband likes to hear about stories like this and play devil's advocate. He always asks if we have gotten the entire story. Is it politically slanted? In this instance, I'd say McCain has her facts pretty buttoned up. There were many military officials that refused to be interviewed, but despite this, McCain attempts to question all angles and back up statements with documents and corroborative evidence.

The writing is also very smooth and easy to read. The only thing that would stop you from finishing this book in a few days would just be the topic, which can inspire some pretty terrifying emotions in a reader. In the chapter covering the actual trial, when you hear about the acts committed against Davis, you may need to put the book down for a bit. It is more than even a hardened, true crime junkie like me can take. As the mother of a son, I can barely stomach the idea of someone's child suffering like this.

I would like to thank Jaime from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for the opportunity to review this phenomenal book!

4.5 out of 5 stars





18 comments:

Melody said...

Not sure if this book is for me, but what an emotional book! Thanks for the great review, Sandy!

Chris and Jess said...

I think I would like this so have added it to my wishlist - interesting story that need to be read

Andreea said...

I'm with Melody, I don't know if it's for me, but thanks for the great review anyway!

Serena said...

Wow, this sounds disturbing...and yet insightful...thanks for sharing the review.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree with Serena - sounds very disturbing! But important to know about! Thanks for the review!

Julie P. said...

I'm with the other people who've already commented. It sounds interesting, but very disturbing.

Kathleen said...

Well it goes without saying that this book is right up my alley! Thanks for a great review.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, just thinking about that makes me sick to my stomach.

Zibilee said...

This does indeed sound like a terrifying story. I don't read true crime very much because, to me, knowing that these stories are true makes them all the more horrific to me. However, I was really compelled by your review and am thinking that this one might go on the wish list. Your review was beautifully detailed and thoughtful.

Darlene said...

This sounds like it would be a very emotional read along with disturbing. I do like true crime stories but mostly on tv where I'm preoccupied and can't imagine things as viviidly.

Nymeth said...

Poor Davis :\ I actually hadn't heard of this story before. I feel awful for him - and as someone who had a hard time at school, I'm always extra sympathetic to anyone who's bullied. Not that what happens at schools even comes close to what happens here, by the sound of it.

ds said...

This sounds like a very powerful book, one with an important story to tell. Would probably be too disturbing for me, but isn't that the point of books like this, to disturb us?
Wonderful review, Sandy. Thank you.

Alice Teh said...

Thank you for sharing about this book, Sandy! I've been reading quite a few memoirs lately and they're also about the military although I didn't write any reviews. I do want to give this one a try.

Cilla said...

Thank you everyone for your interest in the book. Yes, it is a disturbing story but an important one. The point of a book like this is not to shock readers but to make them "think" about the age they live in. There is no tool for positive change more powerful than the written word. As readers, the tool is in your hands.

Thanks again,
Cilla

S. Krishna said...

This book sounds incredible. Thanks for the review!

Jenners said...

Oh man ... this just sounds chilling and disturbing. It almost makes me fear for Ms. McCain.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I thought this book sounded familiar. I was reading your review and trying to think of what I had seen that used parts of this story and then you mentioned it. Thank you! I would have been wracking my brain. I am always so curious about why stiff happens and te psychology behind acts like this. Sounds like a tough but worthwhile read. Great review!

Anna said...

Sounds like an interesting story. I'll have to mention it to my mother. She loves those true crime books.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric