3 out of 4 stars
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One question a reviewer asks themselves during the reviewing process is whether or not a book has a good plot. This is generally easy to answer. I read Back to Serve: Return of a Soldier and asked myself this question. I found myself thinking of other things from the book: It's rare to have a basement in Florida - but Hemingway had one, there's a restaurant in Louisiana named after a song by the guy who sang "Hey Good Lookin'", the Italian word gelato means "ice cream", and what is a clutch catcher? One of my favorite ponderings is when Nico, the protagonist of Cesare Giannetti's fictional memoir points out that most folks incorrectly pronounce "Cheers!" in Russian; incidentally, when people use salut or "salute" as a toast, how they say it means "Hi!" in French.
But anyway, I should tell you about the plot.
Nico's retirement from the U.S. Army was official. As he heads into a pub to have a celebratory drink, Nico mentally notes two men, a bit underdressed for the chilly weather, standing outside. Shortly after Nico sits down, the bartender comes over to Nico, sets down a shot of vodka in front of him and indicates the woman who sent it over. The woman, who is evidently Russian, is a student who is studying law in New York. She warns Nico that his life is in danger. Nico excuses himself a bit later to use the restroom and returns to find a business card propped up against his drink; it has the name "Nadya" embossed on one side and some strange numbers written on the other side. Nadya is gone.
The following morning, Nico heads to Miami where he will settle in with his family and start looking for a job. Several months later, Nico travels to New York to visit his father. He meets with Nadya in New York and she tells him who is trying to kill him. She explains why and when they are planning on killing him. Nico returns to Miami a few days later and accepts a temporary position with the U.S. government, working with a counter-terrorism group from Hungary. Nico and his team work between Hungary and Russia; the latter being where Nico finally confronts one of his would-be assassins. He works with the counter-terrorism group for the next year and then returns to Miami. He soon lands a job as a security analyst at the Miami International Airport, but before he can start his new job, he receives a call requesting his expertise for a peace-keeping mission in Iraq. While attempting to keep the Mosul airport from falling into the hands of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant), Nico is injured. He is flown to Germany and spends several months there recovering before he is finally sent home.
There was not anything about this novel that I did not like. I enjoyed the random information in the book. There is information specific to certain locales such as information on the Sabine Pass in Texas and on Bryant Park in New York. The military information ranges from how many miles a day a candidate for the OCS (Officer Candidate School) should run to the history of the Purple Heart. Nico touches upon past news headlines and provides New York area professional sports recaps. There is also a nice variety of quotations and some interesting photos.
I think most readers would enjoy this book. Readers who cannot read Italian or similar languages might find the Italian phrases and their interpretations a distraction; I found them to be a nice touch granting authenticity to the characters. The book does not have any erotic scenes and the profanity is neither excessive not offensive. I would recommend this book to active or retired military, people interested in history, and people who like stories loaded with random information.
Due mostly to formatting issues, I give Cesare Giannetti's Back to Serve: Return of a Soldier 3 out of 4 stars. There are a variety of likeable and well-developed characters to whom it is easy to relate; for instance, it is evident that Nico feels either defensive or perhaps at fault after being shunned by Nadya, which is why he feels the need to confront one of Nadya's "brothers" outside the pub in Texas. The plot is intriguing and suspenseful. When there is a lull in the action, there is a wide variety of information provided to hold the reader's attention. It probably will not take most readers long to get through this interesting and action-packed novel.
Back to Serve
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