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The Noble Path    by Peter May Amazon.com order for
Noble Path
by Peter May
Order:  USA  Can
Quercus, 2019 (2019)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Peter May's The Noble Path addresses the rippling damage caused by war - to those who do the killing as well as those killed - and later attempts at redemption. The book opens by quoting a 17th century proverb: 'When war begins hell opens', as happened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1975.

The novel's protagonist, Jack Elliott, was in the British Army, but was imprisoned after his unit slaughtered women and children, believing them to be combatants. He became a soldier of fortune. Now Jack takes on the seemingly impossible task of rescuing a wealthy Cambodian's family from the aftereffects of the Khmer Rouge's genocide (I traveled in Cambodia a few years ago and visited scenes of the massacres of so very many innocents).

Ang Yuon left with the Americans, abandoning his wife Ang Serey, his daughter Ny and son Hau to the terrors to come. Life became hard labor, with little to eat, and nightly indoctrination sessions. Ny was repeatedly raped, but also given extra food, which helped keep them alive. Hau became a child soldier.

As Jack and two associates make their way to Thailand to pick up arms and supplies from arms dealer Tuk, readers are introduced to his eighteen-year-old daughter, Lisa Robinson. Lisa has led a very sheltered life. Her mother always told her that her father was dead. When she learns that he still lives, she's determined to find him, and heads to Bangkok.

In Bangkok, we meet an elegant Cambodian Lady, who runs a very high end brothel, Chez La Mere Grace. The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia accelerates Jack's plans. He and his crew survive Tuk's betrayal, but leave him alive. Tuk's hatred festers and is bent on innocent young Lisa when she shows up.

Miraculously, the mercenaries do find the Ang family, all three of them, but getting them out of the country proves very challenging, and not everyone makes it. By the end of the story, all have faced horrors but some have also managed to reclaim their humanity. The Noble Path is not always an easy read, but it is well worth the effort.

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