The story starts in 1991 when the first Gulf war (Operation Desert Storm) was effectively over while, at one checkpoint manned by US forces, twenty two year old Private Arwood Hobbs was bored. Then Thomas Benton appears and Arwood’s life is changed for ever. Benton is an embedded journalist working for The Times who intends to record as much as he can about the local population and their views on having effectively been released from the yoke of the Iraqi dictator. To do this he wanders away from the secure area toward a local village. However, both Benton and Hobbs become mixed up in an attack by Saddam Hussein’s troops on the village and the unforgettable execution of a girl by an Iraqi colonel of Hussein’s forces. Because of their actions, they are both removed from the area, one as a civilian and the other becoming what is effectively a free ranging soldier. As a pair they become involved with Marta Strom, during a refugee relief operation in the Kurdistan region because Benton wishes to interview her. This is effectively the content of the first few chapters in this book before the story moves forward some twenty two years to 2013.
- Derek B. Miller
In 2013 Arwood becomes convinced he has seen the same girl in a green dress during a news clip of a mortar attack somewhere in the Syria/Iraq border region and contacts Benton. It seems that Arwood has been the most affected by what happened so long ago and he is only too keen to try and put things together for his own sake. He persuades Benton, who is still in the same line of work, to join him in the Kurdistan region in an effort to interview and obtain information as to what is going on there, looking for a girl who cannot be the same one in a green dress. Once there they find themselves talking to Marta again before becoming involved in another conflict where the losers are again refugees fleeing desperate situations within their own country.
Although there have been quite a few books on the relatively recent problems in the Middle East area of Iraq and Syria (the Kurdistan region) they are usually more of the military adventure type of thriller. This one is a thriller and a fairly fast moving one at that revolving around the effects of Al Qaeda and the advent of ISIL on the civilian population, together with the efforts of refugee organisations trying to provide some relief for the refugees. However, there is also considerable consideration given to the main three characters with humour interposed at some unusual points which provides relief in a book which otherwise could be fairly heavy to read.
I have never read any thing by Derek B. Miller before but this became one of those books I enjoyed and found difficult to put down, it being easy to read and interesting, with a story that I could follow and understand while enjoying it. It is certainly worth reading and I will look out to see if anything else by him is published.