Tom Gauthier,
Mead's Trek
(Outskirts Press, 2009)

Anyone ready to read some World War II fiction? Would you like to focus on the Asian theatre instead of Europe? If so, Mead's Trek by Tom Gauthier should be on your list.

This novel is the second with main character Amos Mead at the forefront. Don't worry if you have never heard of Amos. Gauthier writes Mead's Trek in such a way that you can jump right in. But I'll warn you now that after you read this book, you'll want to go back and read Code Name: Orion's Eye, the first Amos Mead novel, if you haven't already.

Let me explain a little bit about Amos to you. He is a member of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services). This was an intelligence-gathering agency of the United States during WWII. In short, Amos is more of a thinker than a fighter, even if he is a major in the USMC. Action buffs need not worry. Being a thinker hasn't kept him out of scrapes before and it certainly doesn't keep him out of the fight in this story either. Amos's girl is the pretty Army nurse, Major Brigit O'Hare. In this story, Brigit kind of sidesteps her nursing duties to become an analyst for the OSS. Based in Hawaii, she demonstrates her ability to decipher coded messages and put the pieces together to figure out what the enemy is really up to. Her work becomes important for the survival of Mead's group.

And just what is Mead's group? Well, he is charged with taking a little party, which includes a British officer, to southeast Asia by way of Hawaii, then Australia. Not to give too much away, but my favorite scene in the book is when Mead's group is shot down short of their target. And this is why they have a trek before them. The group has to avoid the Japanese as the work their way through Thailand and Vietnam. Their mission is imperative, as it seems there is connection between the U.S. vice president and the Communists. Mead is out to determine what the VP is up to behind the president's back. Throw in the French contingents, the corrupt Nationalist Chinese and Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh, with everybody having their own agenda, and Mead has quite a lot on his hands. Amos has to be careful regarding who is a friend and who is the enemy when the only obvious foes are the Japanese.

Gauthier was born during the early days of the USA's involvement in WWII. While he was too young to have personally experienced that war, he did spend time in the military (both Army and Air Force) on active duty and in the Reserves. Tom's military career ended by the time he was in his mid-20s. His civilian career took him to a variety of countries, so he is well traveled. He also has a degree in psychology. As if that isn't enough under his belt, Gauthier is a private pilot.

One thing that makes Mead's Trek unique is that it is mostly set in southeast Asia. It seems most WWII novels focus on the fight against the Nazis. And if you do find a novel based in Asia, most of the action seems to take place between the Philippines and Japan. I was captivated with with the way Gauthier brought together elements of what became the eventual fight between the Nationalists and Communists in China before their open civil war in the late 1940s, as well as the fight for power between the French, Japanese and local Communists in what was then French Indochina, but what we now know as the Vietnam.

I found the fight scenes throughout the book to be vivid and believable. I did think the story wrapped up a little too conveniently, however. While not all the good guys survive this tale, the last action sequence was a little too Hollywood, with its stroke of luck/divine intervention/what-have-you. But if that is the only fault I can find with the book, well then, what are you waiting for? Don't you have some reading to do?

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Wil Owen

27 November 2010

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