Up Country (Paul Brenner Series #2)

Up Country (Paul Brenner Series #2)

by Nelson DeMille


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There is a name carved into the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., of an American army lieutenant whose death is shrouded in mystery. The authorities have reason to believe that he was not killed by the enemy, or by friendly fire; they suspect he was murdered.

At first, Paul Brenner, himself a Vietnam vet, isn't interested in investigating the case. After his forced retirement from the army's Criminal Investigation Division, he has adapted to the life of a civilian with a comfortable pension. Then his old boss, Karl Hellmann, summons him to the Vietnam Memorial to call in a career's worth of favors. Hellmann tells Brenner of the circumstances surrounding the officer's death, and gives him this much to go on: The incident happened over three decades ago in Vietnam; the only evidence is a recently discovered letter written by an enemy soldier describing an act of shocking violence. The name of the North Vietnamese soldier is known, but not his present whereabouts, or even if he is alive or dead.
Brenner's assignment: Return to Vietnam and find the witness. The addendum: The mission is very important to the U.S. Army. Brenner's the ideal man for the job. And it's in his best interest that he doesn't know what this case is really about.

Reluctantly, Brenner begins a strange journey that unearths his own painful memories of Vietnam and leads him down a trail as dangerous as the ones he walked a lifetime ago as a young infantryman. From sultry, sinful Saigon, where he meets beautiful American expatriate Susan Weber, to the remote, forbidding wilderness of up-country Vietnam, he will follow a trail of lies, betrayal, and murder-and uncover an explosive, long-buried secret.

Filled with intrigue and espionage, romance and seduction, action and adventure-as well as the author's patented, subversive wit-Up Country is, above all, about what happens when men fight in wars and how it changes them forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446177931
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 11/06/2007
Series: Paul Brenner Series , #2
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 736
Sales rank: 749,962
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Nelson DeMille is a former U.S. Army lieutenant who served in Vietnam and is the author of nineteen acclaimed novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Night Fall, Plum Island, The Gate House, The Lion, The Panther and Radiant Angel. His other New York Times bestsellers include The Charm School, Word of Honor, The Gold Coast, Spencerville, The Lion's Game, Up Country, Wild Fire, and The General's Daughter, the last of which was a major motion picture. For more information, you can visit NelsonDeMille.net.


Long Island, New York

Date of Birth:

August 22, 1943

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A. in political science, Hofstra University, 1974

Read an Excerpt

Washington, D.C


Bad things come in threes. The first bad thing was a voice mail from Cynthia Sunhill, my former partner in the army's Criminal Investigation Division. Cynthia is still with the CID, and she is also my significant other, though we were having some difficulties with that job description.

The message said, "Paul, I need to talk to you. Call me tonight, no matter how late. I just got called on a case, and I have to leave tomorrow morning. We need to talk."

"Okay." I looked at the mantel clock in my small den. It was just 10 P.M., or twenty-two hundred hours, as I used to say when I was in the army not so long ago.

I live in a stone farmhouse outside Falls Church, Virginia, less than a half-hour drive to CID Headquarters. The commute time is actually irrelevant because I don't work for the CID any longer. In fact, I don't work for anyone. I'm retired, or maybe fired.

In any case, it had been about six months since my separation from the army, and I was getting bored, and I had twenty or thirty years to go.

As for Ms. Sunhill, she was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, about a fourteen-hour drive from Falls Church, or twelve if I'm very excited. Her caseload is heavy, and weekends in the army are often normal duty days.

The last six months had not been easy on our relatively new relationship, and with her interesting career and my growing addiction to afternoon talk shows, we don't have a lot to talk about.

Anyway, bad thing number two. I checked my e-mail, and there was a message that said simply, 1600 hrs, tomorrow, the Wall. It was signed, K.

K is Colonel Karl Hellmann, my former boss at Headquarters, and Cynthia's present commanding officer. That much was clear. What wasn't clear was why Hellmann wanted to meet me at the Vietnam War Memorial. But instinctively, I put this under the category of "bad things."

I considered several equally terse replies, none of them very positive. Of course, I didn't have to respond at all; I was retired. But, in contrast to civilian careers, a military career does not completely end. The expression is, "Once an officer, always an officer." And I had been a warrant officer by rank, and a criminal investigator by occupation.

Fact is, they still have some kind of legal hold on you, though I'm not really sure what it is. If nothing else, they can screw up your PX privileges for a year.

I stared at Karl's message again and noticed it was addressed to Mr. Brenner. Warrant officers are addressed as Mister, so this salutation was a reminder of my past-or perhaps present-army rank, not a celebration of my civilian status. Karl is not subtle. I held off on my reply.

And, last but not least, the third bad thing. I'd apparently forgotten to send in my response to my book club, and in my mail was a Danielle Steel novel. Should I return it? Or give it to my mother next Christmas? Maybe she had a birthday coming up.

Okay, I couldn't postpone the Cynthia call any longer, so I sat at my desk and dialed. I looked out the window as the phone rang at the other end. It was a cold January night in northern Virginia, and a light snow was falling.

Cynthia answered, "Hello." "Hi," I said.

A half-second of silence, then, "Hi, Paul. How are you?" We were off on the wrong foot already, so I said, "Let's cut to the chase, Cynthia."

She hesitated, then said, "Well... Can I first ask you how your day was?"

"I had a great day. An old mess sergeant gave me his recipe for chili-I didn't realize it fed two hundred, and I made it all. I froze it in Ziploc bags. I'll send you some. Then I went to the gym, played a basketball game against a wheelchair team-beat them big time-then off to the local tavern for beer and hamburgers with the boys. How about your day?"

"Well... I just wrapped up the rape case I told you about. But instead of time off, I have to go to Fort Rucker for a sexual harassment investigation, which looks tricky. I'll be there until it's concluded. Maybe a few weeks. I'll be in Bachelor Officers Quarters if you want to call me." I didn't reply.

She said, "Hey, I still think about Christmas." "Me, too." That was a month ago, and I hadn't seen her since. "How's Easter look?"

"You know, Paul... you could move here." "But you could be reassigned anytime. Then I'd wind up following your career moves. Didn't we discuss this?"

"Yes, but..."

"I like it here. You could get stationed here." "Is that an offer?"

Whoops. I replied, "It would be good for your career. Headquarters."

"Let me worry about my career. And I really don't want a staff job. I'm an investigator. Just like you were. I want to go where I can be useful." I said, "Well, I can't be following you around like a puppy dog, or hanging around your apartment when you're away on assignment. It's not good for my ego."

"You could get a job here in law enforcement." "I'm working on that. Here in Virginia."

And so on. It's tough when the guy's not working and the woman has a traveling career. To make matters worse, the army likes to change your permanent duty station as soon as you're comfortable, which calls into question the army's definition of permanent. On top of that, there are a lot of temporary duty assignments these days-places like Bosnia, Somalia, South America-where you could be gone for up to a year, which pushes the definition of temporary. Bottom line, Cynthia and I were what's called these days GU-geographically unsuitable.

The military, as I've always said, is tough on relationships; it's not a job, it's a calling, a commitment that makes other commitments really difficult.

Sometimes impossible.

"Are you there?" she asked. "I'm here." "We can't go on like this, Paul. It hurts." "I know." "What should we do?"

I think she was willing to resign and forfeit a lot of her pension, in exchange for the M word. Then we'd decide where to live, find jobs, and live happily ever after. And why not? We were in love.

"Paul?" "Yeah... I'm thinking." "You should have already thought about all of this." "Right. Look, I think we should talk about this in person. Face-to-face." "The only thing we do face-to-face is fuck." "That's not... well, we'll talk over dinner. In a restaurant." "Okay. I'll call you when I get back from Rucker. I'll come there, or you come here."

"Okay. Hey, how's your divorce coming?" "It's almost final." "Good." Regarding her loving husband, I asked, "Do you see much of Major Nut Case?" "Not much. At the O Club once in a while. Can't avoid those situations." "Does he still want you back?" "Don't try to complicate a simple situation." "I'm not. I'm just concerned that he might try to kill me again." "He never tried to kill you, Paul." "I must have misinterpreted his reason for pointing a loaded pistol at me."

"Can we change the subject?" "Sure. Hey, do you read Danielle Steel?" "No, why?" "I bought her latest book. I'll send it to you." "Maybe your mother would like it. It's her birthday, February 10. Don't forget." "I have it memorized. By the way, I got an e-mail from Karl. He wants to meet me tomorrow." "Why?" "I thought maybe you knew." "No, I don't," she said. "Maybe he just wants to have a drink, talk about old times." "He wants me to meet him at the Vietnam Memorial." "Really? That's odd."

"Yeah. And he never mentioned anything to you?" "No," she replied. "Why should he?" "I don't know. I can't figure out what he's up to." "Why do you think he's up to anything? You two worked together for years. He likes you." "No, he doesn't," I said. "He hates me." "He does not hate you. But you're a difficult man to work with. Actually, you're difficult to love." "My mother loves me."

"You should re-check that. Regarding Karl, he respects you, and he knows just how brilliant you are. He either needs some advice, or he needs some information about an old case."

"Why the Wall?" "Well... I don't know. You'll find out when you meet him." "It's cold here. How's it there?" "Sixties." "It's snowing here." "Be careful driving."

"Yeah." We both stayed silent for a while, during which time I thought of our history. We'd met at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. She was engaged to Major What's-His-Name, a Special Forces guy, we got involved, he got pissed, pulled the aforementioned gun on me, I backed off, they got married, and a year later Cynthia and I bumped into each other again.

It was in the Officers Club at Fort Hadley, Georgia, and we were both on assignment. I was undercover, investigating the theft and sale of army weapons, she was wrapping up a rape case. That's her specialty. Sexual crimes. I'd rather be in combat again than have that job. But someone's got to do it, and she's good at it. More important, she can compartmentalize, and she seems to be unaffected by her work, though sometimes I wonder.

But back to Fort Hadley, last summer. While we were both there, the post commander's daughter, Captain Ann Campbell, was found on a rifle range, staked out, naked, strangled, and apparently raped. So, I'm asked to drop my little arms deal case, and Cynthia is asked to assist me. We solved the murder case, then tried to solve our own case, which is proving more difficult. At least she got rid of Major Nut Job.

"Paul, why don't we put this on hold until we can meet? Is that okay?" "Sounds okay." In fact, it was my suggestion. But why point that out? "Good idea."

"We both need to think about how much we have to give up and how much we stand to gain." "Did you rehearse that line?" "Yes. But it's true. Look, I love you-" "And I love you."

"I know. That's why this is difficult." Neither of us spoke for a while, then she said, "I'm younger than you--"

"But I'm more immature." "Please shut up. And I like what I do, I like my life, my career, my independence.

But... I'd give it up if I thought..." "I hear you. That's a big responsibility for me." "I'm not pressuring you, Paul. I'm not even sure I want what I think I want."

I'm a bright guy, but I get confused when I talk to women. Rather than ask for a clarification, I said, "I understand." "Do you?"

"Absolutely." "Totally clueless." "Do you miss me?" "Every day," I said.

"I miss you. I really do. I'm looking forward to seeing you again. I'll take some leave time. I promise." "I'll take some leave time, too." "You're not working." "Right. But if I was, I'd take a leave to be with you. I'll come to you this time. It's warmer there." "Okay. That would be nice." "You like chili?" "No."

"I thought you liked chili. Okay, good luck with the case. Give me a day's notice, and I'll be there."

"It'll be about two weeks. Maybe three. I'll let you know when I get into the case."

"Okay." "Say hello to Karl for me. Let me know what he wanted." "Maybe he wants to tell me about his alien abduction." She laughed.

So, just as we were about to end on a happy note, she said, "You know, Paul, you didn't have to resign."

"Is that a fact?" The case of the general's daughter had been trouble from minute one, a political, emotional, and professional minefield, and I stepped right into it. I would have been better off not solving the case because the solution turned out to be about things no one wanted to know. I said to Cynthia, "A letter of reprimand in my file is the army's way of saying, 'Call your pension officer.' A little subtle, perhaps, but-" "I think you misinterpreted what was happening. You were scolded, you got all huffy, and you acted impulsively because your ego was bruised."

"Is that so? Well, thank you for informing me that I threw away a thirty-year career because I had a temper tantrum." "You should come to terms with that. I'll tell you something else-unless you find something equally important and challenging to do, you're going to get depressed--" "I'm depressed now. You just made me depressed. Thanks."

"Sorry, but I know you. You were not as burned out as you thought you were. The Campbell case just got to you. That's okay. It got to everyone. Even me. It was the saddest, most depressing case--" "I don't want to talk about that."

"Okay. But what you needed was a thirty-day leave, not a permanent vacation. You're still young-" "You're younger."

"You've got a lot of energy left, a lot to give, but you need to write a second act, Paul." "Thank you. I'm exploring my options." It had gotten noticeably cooler in the room and on the phone.

"Are you angry?" "No. If you were here, you'd see me smiling. I'm smiling." "Well, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't be saying these things." "I'm still smiling." "See you in a few weeks." She said, "Take care of yourself." "You, too." Silence, then, "Good night." "'Bye."

We both hung up. I stood, went to the bar, and made a drink. Scotch, splash of soda, ice.

I sat in my den, my feet on the desk, watching the snow outside. The Scotch smelled good.

So, there I was with a Danielle Steel novel on my desk, an unpleasant phone call still ringing in my ears, and an ominous message from Karl Hellmann on my computer screen.

Sometimes things that seem unconnected are actually part of a larger plan. Not your plan, to be sure, but someone else's plan. I was supposed to believe that Karl and Cynthia were not talking about me, but Mrs. Brenner didn't raise an idiot.

I should be pissed off when people underestimate my intelligence, though in truth, I affect a certain macho idiocy that encourages people to underestimate my brilliance. I've put a lot of people in jail that way.

I looked at the message again. 1600 hrs, tomorrow, the Wall. Not even "please." Colonel Karl Gustav Hellmann can be a bit arrogant. He's German-born, as the name suggests, whereas Paul Xavier Brenner is a typical Irish lad, from South Boston, charmingly irresponsible, and delightfully smart-assed. Herr Hellmann is quite the opposite. Yet, on some strange level, we got along. He was a good commander, strict but fair, and highly motivated. I just never trusted his motives.

Anyway, I sat up and banged out an e-mail to Karl: See you there and then.

I signed it, Paul Brenner, PFC, which, in this case, did not mean Private First Class, but meant, as Karl and I both knew, Private F-ing Civilian.

Copyright © 2002 by Nelson DeMille

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Up Country (Paul Brenner Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 198 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nelson Demille is, by far, my favourite author and a writer of substantial quality. All of his books are of the highest quality and a pleasure to read and re-read. Up Country is however, the only exception. Being many many pages in length it is certainly an interesting insight into the '68 Tet Offensive however it is lacking any worthy plot. The novel unfortunately reads as more of a set of war memoirs although I am pleased that Nelson has 'got this off his chest'! I even flew to the Vero Beach book centre to meet Nelson and for him to sign my copy so it's a shame I'm unlikely to read this novel again. An interesting read, but not a classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upcountry mixes memories of the Vietnam War with an image of current Vietnam and how the war is still a part of their lives. It also tells a great story of a man who undertakes a mission, comes to terms with his past and falls in love. I couldn't put it down because at the end of each chapter something happens that makes you want to keep reading and I even started reading it again right after I finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My Brother was an infantry man with the 11th Armored Cav. in Viet Name in 66-67 and I could not believe what memeories this book brought back to me ---- like just waiting for letters from him to know he was still alive. I love Nelson DeMille and I love his books and thank him for writing this one - I told my brother and about it. It was funny because he has never talked much about his time in Viet Nam but he expressed a desire to read it. I know he will love this book - I am ordering it for him today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was obviously very important to Mr. DeMille, returning to Vietnam in print to deal with his experiences both as soldier and visiting former soldier. The story is classic DeMille, well thought out and expertly unfolded as you turn the pages. The characters are definitely classic DeMille, full of wit and sarcasm. The only drawback to the book is that at times, it felt more like therapy for dealing with the horrors of the Vietnam War than a story; however, for those interested in 'primary history', it is good to read to understand how DeMille feels about his involvement in Vietnam.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the book!! Interesting descriptions of the war and the country, made me feel as if I was there. The characters are as suprising as the events that happen along the story, I highly recommend it
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of DeMille's best. A bit on the long side, it tells a great story about discovery and healing past wounds of war. Great twists and turns, as well as excellent character developement.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great sequel to the General's Daughter, one may have problems putting this book down. An intriguing Vietnam experience, dealing with the past and present.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nelson DeMille's book, 'Up Country' is superb. His ability to weave a tapestry of Viet Nam's 'tinkling windchime,' an ambience that leaves the reader with a sense of exquisite Southeast Asian emptiness is perfect. I spent 3 tours in Vietnam, 1964-65; 1966; 1969-70, my first two tours as a marine infantryman, machinegunner and machinegun squad leader, and my last tour as a Marine CID agent assigned to Da Nang. I was later commissioned in the Army and served as an investigations officer. His character, Paul Brenner, portrayed by John Travolta in the movie, 'The General's Daughter,' truly typifies the modus operandi and 'signature' of the CWO CID Special Agent, intensely territorial, educated, highly trained and experienced, and always comtemptuous of arrogant authority, especially the fistulated mentality of the abusers of military authority, senior enlisted and commissioned officer personnel. 'Up Country' took me on a journey to my life many worlds ago - to a place that was and still is anachronistic - timecapsuled, French Indochina, Vietnam - the Michelin rubber plantations, the smell of joss sticks, villages with charcoal emanating from each home, blue-gray smoke rising into the evening air, the stench of rice paddies, a beautiful emerald land that in the end, compensated few of us. Death, life, courage, cowardice, gallantry, brutality, a pathos of sadness, all of these feelings, all of them lived in a moment while lifting a bodybag into a chopper the second day of an operation somewhere in I Corps, Phu Lac, or at the bottom of Viet Nam in the Rung Sat, Mekong, where the wounded soon became dead, putrifying beneath a poncho, those holy images of God, bloating, because marine engineers hadn't yet cleared a landing zone in triple canopied mangrove swamp forests. Viet Nam is a wonderful land. Her people are magnificent - warriors, sagacious, 'if you can't do it in this lifetime, do it in the next!' Nelson De Mille captured all of this in 'Up Country.' This must become a movie - John Travolta must reprise his role. If he declines, and I don't know why he would, a good alternate would be Mickey Rourke - he's tough, intelligent, quiet, introspective, aggressive, and 'Irish.' I give Nelson De Mille's book 5 STARS. Superb. Dr. Larry L. Kurtz
Melancholia More than 1 year ago
I read this when it came out in hardcover; couldn't put it down. Then I even ordered it in large print so when I grew old I could still manage to read it and now I bought it again in mass market to reread. It's his best story if you've lived through Vietnam in any way. It informed and helped heal me since that war brought so much tragedy to my life. DeMille has a great sense of humor always and he had been back to Vietnam many years later after serving in the military there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great personal history of the war and an exciting murder investigation. Hopefully he will use the character Paul Brenner in an Abu Gharib investiogation, or something similar.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this novel centered on the Vietnam war. The character development is excellent, and follows the classic DeMille pattern of sarcasm,wit,and self discovery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was riviting, as a Vietnam Vet it brought back many memories, some good, some bad. His eerie discription of battlefields such as the Ashau Valley and Khe Sanh were right on the mark. I envisioned myself as the character Paul Brenner as he followed his mission around Vietnam.
Paulam13 7 months ago
I so enjoyed this book! First of all let me say Thank You for your Service!. It is Memorial Weekend, so an appropriate time for me to finish this great read. I am a few years young to have had a personal connection to the Vietnam War at the time, but remember both of my brothers having friends that served, and some that were drafted for the war. As a child, I remember more about the parents that discussed the war, and the impact it was having on their personal lives as children joined the armed forces to serve during this time. Last year, my husband and I watched the 10 series documentary written by Geoffrey C Ward on the Vietnam War. We became somewhat transfixed on the documentary. I continue to read information about that time in our history, and the human, political, emotional, and economical elements that surfaced during the war for both the Vietnamese and Americans, both then and now. I am visiting Vietnam next January, so was very committed to this book and the history it provided, especially from a Vets point of view. The characters and the plot were great as well, but I truly just absorbed the information about the country, the survival of those that lived to educate us as to the war's impact, and the progression that the Vietnamese people and their country have made since those dark hours for so many years. Thank you so much for a great experience, not just a great read! I am sure I will have to read this one again.
BearSkee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Descriptive tale of current Vietnam and its war torn past.
CynDaVaz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was probably one of the most compelling representations of Vietnam I've ever been exposed to: the war, reflections on the war, and present-day - at least, when the main story takes place, in '97. What I mean by that is that I developed a deeper understanding of the people, their tenacity, and various things that occurred during the war. I haven't changed my opinion that the Communist North should have been crushed like a bug (we could have done it, we just lacked the will - and the South Vietnamese citizens paid the price when we left). DeMille's writing really put me in the situation and I felt like I was there, experiencing what was happening, right along with Paul Brennar. This was probably one of his deepest books yet - and that's saying a lot since I adore his other character so much more (John Corey). The reason I took off a star was because of the length. I felt like it took the same amount of time to listen to it as the length of time in which the story takes place (two weeks). It really didn't take me *that* long, of course, but the writing style, the depth of description, and the plot were so involved that when it was over and done with I felt about as wiped out as Brennar's character did when the story came to a close. On the flip side, if everything hadn't been as well developed as it was, I wouldn't have had such a rich listening experience. Once again, Scott Brick's narration was excellent.
donaldgallinger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Up Country is Nelson Demille's suspense thriller set in post-Vietnam. Full of exciting escapes and tense drama, Demille takes the reader on a dangerous adventure through a country teaming with ghosts from previous wars. Superbly researched. Brilliantly paced. A must read for DeMille fans.
HankIII on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my very first DeMille book, and I enjoyed it so much I hated to see it end. But since it did, I immediately went on a DeMille spree. It lit the fuse...
lovejoy_rat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic thriller that really sends you into the heads of the main characters. DeMille draws you into the heart of the Vientmese people and its war torn lands with a tremendus sense of place, and a great sense of humor.
WeeziesBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Up Country¿ by Nelson DeMille is a new kind of adventure, espionage, suspense book for DeMille. Returning again to Vietnam and the places he was stationed during the Vietnam War, Paul Brenner has been persuaded to investigate and resolve the murder of a soldier during wartime. Starting with a long lost letter from a family, following the trail to find the personal effects of the soldier, and the travels across the Vietnam countryside fill the pages of this novel. The book is politically charged with whispers of top level of government being involved in a potential cover up. The characters, especially the Vietnam military leaders (Colonel Mang) and henchmen and country characters that Susan and Paul interact with on their travels were well developed though not always likable. The book gave a good view of the country and it¿s different characteristics from the city to the county and up into the hills with seldom visited small villages and huts. This was a good book that I really enjoyed.
MikeD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very Good Story about a modern day murder that leads to a visit back to Vietnam for vet and cop Paul Brenner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Jas1633 More than 1 year ago
Great history of Viet war, great geog.lesson. Top, page turning story line.
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