SECOND OPINION: Spoils by Brian Van Reet

Review published on November 25, 2017.

It is spring 2003 and coalition forces are advancing on Iraq. This was a well-written tale and the experience of the author shows through. His time in the US Army as a tank crewman is essential to the telling of this story, which covers eight weeks during the early stages of the war.

A brilliant first chapter sets the stage for a fantastic read. An American tank patrol comes under attack and become prisoners of war. The tale is told from three points of view: Nineteen-year-old Specialist Cassandra Wigheard; Sleed, a tank crewman who is a man on the lookout for number one; and Abu al-Hool, a jihadist since the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, for whom war is wearing thin.

What I liked was the way the author can paint the bigger picture and also the everyday minutiae of daily living. This book is well written. The chaos, brutality and visceral nature of war and combat. We can hear the noise, we smell the blood. We can feel the fear. His writing is superb. His powers of description are superb. One instance where he likens tracer bullets to arrows fired from the ramparts of a medieval castle. Death is death in whatever form it comes. If I have one complaint it is that I couldn’t warm to the character Sleed. But I suppose he was essential to the story.

A good read and worth 5 stars. Well done Brian Van Reet.

Alfred Nobile 5/5

Spoils by Brian Van Reet
Jonathan Cape 9781910702963 hbk May 2017


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