Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The DMZ by Jeanette Windle

It's the end of the Cold War and most of the Marxists have faded into the woodwork. But there is still the issue of drugs and rebels in Columbia. It is a nation at war with itself.
The U. S. suspects other countries have influence in the country. The decision: “Whether we go into Columbia and end up with another Vietnam on our hands or stay back and watch the entire hemisphere south of our borders go up in flames, the mess is going to be ours to clean up.” (52)
The U. S. loses a surveillance plane and then a Black Hawk. Something serious is going on in the DMZ. The aircraft had been destroyed by weapons better than just surface to air missiles.
Julie Baker and other reporters fly into rebel territory to have a staged interview with rebel leaders. Canadian medical personnel are along to determine the cause of death of three western people, bodies held by the rebels. Julie had grown up in the area – her parents missionaries. She cannot resist an attempt to get out of the guarded area to see her childhood home and her parent's graves. She, along with a missionary who followed her, are “caught stupidly wandering out of bounds...” (210) They are captured by rebels and arrested as spies. (I found this a weak part of the plot, that one who grew up in the area would do something so dumb.)
Julie, with the help of a local who remembered her from childhood, manages to escape. She and an undercover U. S. soldier, Rick, manage to survive in the jungle and eventually come in contact with more of the I'paa from her childhood. They tell a tale of foreigners, “white ghosts,” and death. Rick and Julie investigate and find that Arab terrorists had chosen a site deep in the Columbian rain forest, nearly impenetrable. A deadly weapon is being readied for great destruction – and it is directed toward the U. S.
This is a long book (over 500 pages). The author is herself the daughter of missionary parents and grew up in the mountains of Columbia. She has much to say about the country. Because of this, there is fleeting action interwoven with pages of prose. There is lots of thinking by the characters, lots of Columbian history, and lots of philosophy.
Windle has several messages to convey. There is the defense of missionaries. There is the assurance that Americans would not achieve peace with any meaning or any length. (353) There is the dismay that the lure of discovered oil made the preservation of the rain forest secondary in the government's eyes. (105)
The beginning of the book is a little confusing. We do not meet the main character, Julie, until page 71. Windle has one of her characters saying, “...it'll be a whole lot easier if we can just brief you from the beginning.” (48) I wish she would have taken her character's advice. Jumping around at the beginning of the book, introducing characters we never see again or don't see for hundreds of pages – I found that a literary technique that detracted from the overall book.
This book was initially published in 2001 and was recently reissued. But much has changed on the world scene in a decade. Iraq is a major terrorist player in this novel and a viable power in the Middle East. That certainly dates the book.
This is definitely not a “page turner.” I found I had to plod through the book, so to speak. If one is interested in Columbia and what was going on there around a decade ago, this would be a fine book to read. But don't read it for riveting action – it's not there until about the last thirty pages.

Jeanette Windle: As the child of missionary parents, Windle, an award-winning author and journalist, grew up in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now guerrilla hot zones. Currently based in Lancaster, PA, Windle has lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty on five continents. She has fifteen books in print, including political/suspense best-seller CrossFire, The Parker Twins series and Tyndale House Publishers releases: Betrayed, Veiled Freedom, and Freedom's Stand.

I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.

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