Briefly put, this is the story of a former soldier asked to investigate the disappearance of his former drill sergeant, who made Army Rangers. He took a half-dozen men with him on a drill in the Panamanian jungle; a hurricane hit; two emerged alive. There is a woman in the rank of captain, standing for conventions, conducting the investigation; & our protagonist, an obvious scoundrel, is suspected of bribes, rumor has it.
The investigation is to last six hours. The troops were six hours out of contact. Half a day in all, one night. The place is an American military base in Panama, in the age of don’t ask, don’t tell, the withdrawal from Panama, & an ever-increasing number of women in the army.
Deception is the core of our story. The two soldiers tell contradicting stories. It is not difficult to spot some of the lies, but the liars’ motives are difficult to understand. The poet’s intention is most difficult to understand. Provisionally, I will say that he puts a premium on cleverness & discounts therefore morality. This is possible in the jungle, for necessity is near. The sergeant tells his soldiers that volunteering means nothing to him; their connections – less. He chooses who stays & who goes because he chooses who lives & who dies. He tells them that three accidents happen every year & he does not mind making them happen. – This is revealed in the end as an ironic image of poetry: Art controlling nature.
The woman is not there to learn from the man. She sees the success of this interrogator, but not the cause. She is more moral, not necessarily brighter than the Rangers. She ignores the cause of evil; hence the necessity of lawlessness for justice. He knows the mind of his teacher, but his investigation only requires that he prove the guilt of a few soldiers. The woman shows great respect for that sergeant. Also, the unit doctor was her lover.
The French in Panama did not treat men as human beings; denying them burial, arguing from circumstance & prudence, they sold them as cadavers, making money out of the unusual way medical colleges treat our bodies. Their successful American successors treat men as human beings, repatriating corpses for burial in the motherland, but some hide cocaine in the corpses to make money. The investigation revolves around death & burial & the army. The disappearing soldiers apparently were not soldiers. But if soldiers are men who kill & die for their country to do justice in face of the enemy, then they are soldiers. So with everything else you see: It both is & is not what it appears to be.
A good thriller. Find it. See it