DeMille's "General's Daughter" Still Timely

Post date: Jul 27, 2013 4:54:10 PM

The General's Daughter

I've watched the movie based on Nelson DeMille’s The General's Daughter many times, but until recently I never had the chance to read it. I was eager to do so, since I am the author of a mystery novel also involving with a military criminal investigator and some of the same themes DeMille covers in this mystery novel.

In The General’s Daughter, Paul Brenner, an investigator with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, is working undercover at a fictitious Army base in Georgia when he is drawn into a case involving the murder of a female Army captain. The case is highly sensitive for two reasons: the victim was found on post naked and staked spread eagle to the ground, an apparent rape victim; the victim, Ann Campbell, is also the rising-star daughter of the fort’s commanding general, a hero of the first Gulf War with political ambitions.

DeMille blends a hard-boiled narration with a police procedural as he takes the reader deep into the lives of the officers who served alongside Captain Campbell. Brenner, a sardonic Vietnam veteran who is nearing the end of his Army career, is teamed with Cynthia Sunhill, a younger, idealistic rape investigator with whom he once had an affair. Together they dig beneath the starched and pressed Dress Green uniforms of the fort’s officer corps to undercover a not-too-well-hidden seediness that threatens to destroy dozens of careers, including the general’s. They also discover that Captain Campbell was as much predator as victim.

DeMille, himself a former Army officer and Vietnam veteran, explores many themes in this book. Officers are expected to live up to a high standard of honor, but in The General’s Daughter he shows that many fail in doing so. Written in 1992, not long after the military integrated the sexes, he explores an Army trying to cope with the still new concept of men and women serving side-by-side. Twenty years later, as the Pentagon deals with sex scandals at the military academies, on the battlefield, and among some of its highest ranking officers, the questions explored in this book are still looking for answers.