Guest Reviewer Ash's Review of “The Last Refuge” by Martin Roy Hill

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File Size: 624 KB

Print Length: 219 pages

Publisher: M. R. Hill Publishing (February 29, 2016)

Publication Date: February 29, 2016

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC 

Language: English

ASIN: B01990D968

Synopsis: Iraq, 1991: Operation Desert Storm. In a terrible friendly fire incident, a U.S. helicopter massacres a small convoy of American MPs. Among the dead: a mysterious American civilian engineer discovered by the soldiers behind enemy lines.

San Diego, CA, 1993: A freelance journalist is hired to write a story about a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the dead engineer's widow against the government and the defense contractor he worked for. The problem: the government insists the lawsuit does not exist, and the contractor claims the engineer did not work for them. Worse, someone is willing to kill to keep it that way.

Peter Brandt, the war-scarred journalist hero of Empty Places, returns in this story of greed, betrayal, and government secrets. Can Peter expose the truth without becoming another victim of the wartime tragedy?

Ash's Rating: 4/5

Ash Review: “The Last Refuge” is set in the period post the first Gulf War when the murky entanglements of private businesses, the government and the military are slowly being unravelled. This book is so well written that I had to do remind myself frequently that it was a fictional situation. Its a fictional situation however which leans heavily on the authors in-depth knowledge and experience as a reporter and military analyst. 

The situation in which the protagonist Peter Brandt finds himself involves a law suit by a widow of a civilian contractor who died in Iraq in 1991. Brandt sets out to find out more about the case only for the law suit to suddenly “not exist”. Frustrated by the obvious cover-up Brandt sets about uncovering the truth, placing his life in danger in the process and meeting Captain Jo Rice who shares his aim to find out the truth but whose motivation is less clear. 

Hill’s gift in this novel is writing a story which is  related enough to real-life events to make it entirely plausible. The weapons dealings leading up to the Gulf War are complex and yet in Hill’s hands, they are explained in a manner which is accessible. This is a novel rich in detail and yet at no point is it too complicated or boring in its level of detail. Hill achieves the right level of detail to keep the plot going at an entertaining pace. 

Brandt is a very likeable hero whose backstory is alluded to throughout the novel and written about in Hill’s previous novel “Empty Places” (which I now intend to read!). His frustration with being lied to coupled with his attempts to cope with his own traumas are well written. My only difficulty with “The Last Refuge” was my inability to warm to the novel’s other main character Jo. Throughout the novel her motivations are unclear and it is only towards the end of the novel that she became more likeable for me. 

The Last Refuge is a well written, informative and entertaining novel which deftly addresses the complexity of the post Gulf War period and the impact of wrangling between the military and private enterprise in a manner which is both realistic and intriguing. 

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