Tuesday, March 23, 2010
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