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The General's Daughter

2 Ratings: 2.5
A book by Nelson DeMille

Long before the John Travolta film ofThe General's Daughter(which the author extols in the foreword), Nelson DeMille's seventh mystery was the breakout hit of his career. The rapid-fire dialogue and scenes are cinematic, and the storytelling puts most … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Nelson DeMille
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
1 review about The General's Daughter

Kinky Murder Mystery Lusty But Lacking

  • May 5, 2005
Rating:
+1
When Nelson DeMille gets going, there are few fiction writers to beat him. Other than "Finnegan's Wake" in Sanskrit, there's nothing more difficult for a reader than putting down "Plum Island" in the last 150 pages. "The General's Daughter" actually is the reverse, though, pulling you in quickly and then running out of steam.

The concept grabs you fast: A female Army officer is found bound, naked, and dead on the rifle range of a Southern military installation. A Criminal Investigation Division warrant officer is pulled from his undercover case to investigate the homicide, and learns about the victim's secret life, which basically consisted of rough sex games that connected to her interest in aberrant psychology and her own wounded past.

DeMille provides some details into what this is all about, with descriptions that are quite graphic, though more in a clinical than salacious way. I didn't have a problem with this, though I can see why others would. Not only is the victim sexually active, she is actually quite eager to be hurt. At one point, she talks about being raped by a male character as the only time she found him "interesting."

This is thin ice for a writer to skate on, but DeMille carries it off because his depiction of the character, Capt. Ann Campbell, is both vivid and compassionate. DeMille works the reader's libido, creating an edgy, lusty portrait much like Sharon Stone did on screen in "Basic Instinct," the same year of this book's publication. Yet the more you read of her, the sorrier you feel.

"Why do some men think they have to be knights in shining armor?" we read in her journal. "I am my own knight, I am my own dragon, and I live in my own castle."

The problem with "The General's Daughter" is none of the living characters seem as alive. Not only do they lack Capt. Campbell's dark spell, they are rather inert and soulless. Paul Brenner, the CID investigator, has some good wisecracks but his tough-guy routine wears thin.

With him is former flame and rape specialist Cynthia Sunhill who DeMille needs in this book not only to give Paul someone to talk to by way of exposition but also to remind us from time to time that rape and suchlike are bad things most women really don't like. But DeMille's attempts to create some romantic interest between the two investigators feels forced, and by the end of the book, fairly absurd.

Also a problem is the mystery. Though well set up, it just didn't make much sense when it was over. Like other reviewers here note, there are too many suspects and too little is done to fill the reader in on how, other than gut instincts, the investigators come to focus on one. There's a slow crawl to the end, a sudden resolution, and a number of questions DeMille strangely leaves unanswered, like the reappearance of a ring and the disappearance of a material witness in another case.

In the end, I couldn't get Capt. Campbell out of my head, and I'm guessing DeMille couldn't either. After the first 100 pages, the book never seems to go anywhere without her in it. Even though her story has its share of logic gaps, too, she's so erotically high-charged in her uncomfortable, heroic way you kind of skirt over them until after you get through the novel. "The General's Daughter" is one mystery where the victim is more interesting than the crime.

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