NO MAN LEFT BEHIND: A REVIEW OF DON BENTLEY'S FORGOTTEN WAR
Matt Drake, Don Bently's case officer for The Defense Intelligence Agency, appears for the fourth time in Forgotten War. Both author and character have injected a fresh take on the military thriller. In this latest, Don pushes his character and the genre further.
It begins with Matt and Frodo, Drake's wounded warrior buddy who often acts as an intel back up, hearing the news of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. As they ponder the fate of the country and comrades, two CID officers step into the bar they're at and arrest Frodo for murder. Soon team members from their early days begin to die mysteriously and Drake and his truck are sent diving into a river in a harrowing passage.
Drake learns this is all tied to a mission they were on in 2011. To get to the answers, as well as locate a family member trapped in the country, Drake must go back to Afghanistan as it falls to the Taliban. Helped by a group of civilians and vets working to get theri allies out, he searches for an interpreter who could hold the key. If that wasn't difficult enough, the man is a target of the Taliban too.
Bentley uses his military background to full effect. He delivers an authentic feel with a soldier's gear and weaponry. We often get the insight of tactics as Drake lays out a plan in his mind then how he improvises when the unforeseen pops up. This results in some incredibly cinematic action sequences. For those of of us that grew up on eighties action movies, you can hear a Jerry Goldsmith score while reading.
However, the best way he uses his background is to make Matt Drake one of the most relatable characters in the genre. He finds human moments in Drake's military/espionage life, even in combat, that he can link to a reader who's never even picked up a pistol. He makes him a friend and husband as well as a soldier. While his training assuradley carries him into a situation, he will at times question what he has gotten into with humor and humanity. His adherence to duty and honor are more than idelic flag waving, they are his north star to navigate through the unreliable geopolitics he operates in. You not only know Matt Drake has your back, you want to have a beer with him.
Forgotten War reaches out to readers beyond the genre's reading base while operating firmly in it. It has all the rousing action, intrigue, and bad-ass weapons a solid military thriller demands, yet uses those tropes for our hero to be confronted the war he fought that his country seems to have abandoned. It pleads that if the war is forgotten, the warriors should never be and many are still fighting.