4 out of 4 stars
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In a secluded military prison in Afghanistan, a captured terrorist is tortured and killed. A U.S. Army lawyer, Captain Max O’Donnell is assigned to represent the accused soldier, Sergeant Jefferson. If convicted of the murder, the soldier faces the death penalty for violating military protocol and international treaties. With a new baby on the way and the lure of civilian life on the horizon, Max is apprehensive about taking on such a high-profile case, especially in the wake of the widely publicized events that took place at Abu Ghraib. As details of the case are revealed, Max uncovers information that could change the trajectory of the investigation, raising unsettling questions about military operating procedures. In Battlemind, a fight for justice in a military courtroom takes center stage as due process unfolds and the truth waits to be discovered.
I selected this book because stories about military justice typically promise to be entertaining and informative. Author Michael Waddington exceeded all my expectations for this novel; its intense plot and relatable characters added depth and power to the unfolding drama. At no point in this story did the energy wane, and it was equally unpredictable and believable. With such a dynamic plot, I was surprised at how compelling the characters were, especially the protagonist. This author does this most notably by weaving defining moments of Max's childhood into his thoughts and actions as a military officer. After reading this, I found myself wondering how my words to my own children may affect them later in life.
The best part of this book is the realism and the author’s ability to capture the essence of military culture as part of the setting. What makes this story different from others is that along with its engaging plot are accurate descriptions of military life. Within the first few pages, I could tell this book was an “inside job.” I was not expecting to chuckle as the author described the palpable friction between superiors and subordinates and the characterization of some of the recruits. There are many other examples in the story that will make any veteran nostalgic as memories with Uncle Sam resurface. There were even a few scenes that had me laughing and shaking my head in camaraderie as the good, bad, and ugly truth of military life is detailed.
There is nothing about the book I did not like. Other than a handful of sporadic and minor errors in grammar, the book seems professionally edited with a vibrant choice of words that appeal to the emotions and invigorate the building suspense of the plot.
I recommend this book to mature readers who enjoy plot-driven stories that provoke profound thought. A reader with military experience or at least an interest in its culture would most appreciate the story, as it is filled with details that would be best understood by those with these connections. Because of the realistic depictions, there is moderate profanity throughout the book, as well as some graphic depictions of prisoner abuse, so it may be inappropriate for younger readers. For those with unresolved trauma about the book’s topic, it may be a trigger and should be avoided. For all others, I highly recommend Battlemind and gladly give this book 4 out of 4 stars.
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