Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 416 pages, ISBN 978-1-4516-40212
Earlier this year, the world’s attention was riveted on a movie depicting the life and times of an American serviceman named Chris Kyle—the deadliest sniper in US Army history, with 160 confirmed kills. Suddenly, there was a national debate about the morality of lying in ambush and killing enemy combatants at long range with high-powered rifles equipped with telescopic sights. The commentary reached a fever pitch when a well-fed, self-appointed keeper of the public morality named Michael Moore observed from the safety of his, no doubt well-protected home, that Chris Kyle was a coward. A statement Mr. Moore later took pains to modify. And it is a statement with which I personally even at the risk of sounding jingoistic, take great umbrage . . .
My wife June, reading over my shoulder, just asked me if there is a book review in here somewhere—and I’m happy to report that yes, there is!
Sniper’s Honor, by Stephen Hunter, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former Washington Post reporter’s twentieth book, and it features his iconic, everyman hero named Bob Lee Swagger . . . a rifle expert and retired US Army sniper . . . a fictional version of the real Chris Kyle.
The story begins when Swagger gets a call from a journalist friend named Kathy Reilly, asking him about a World War II era Mosin-Nagant 91 with a PU scope. Swagger tells her that it’s a Soviet-made sniper rifle. It turns out to be one that may have been used by a female sniper named Ludmulla “Mili” Petrova, a legendary female assassin, once the most decorated and talented of all Soviet snipers, as well as the most hunted woman on earth—having angered both Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin during a secret mission to the Eastern Front during the waning years of the war. Now, her memory is erased from the history books. Instead of being revered as a hero, it’s like she never existed, and Reilly, with Swagger’s help, wants to know why. But as they sift through the evidence trying to reconstruct the woman’s last mission in the mountains and cities of the Ukraine, it becomes apparent that seventy years later modern-day enemies will stop at nothing, including murdering Swagger and Reilly, to keep the facts secret and the story from being told. Which compels Swagger to uncover the truth and bring Mili Petrova the justice she deserves. The novel will keep you on the edge of your seat as it informs and entertains you. It’s written with the finesse of a master wordsmith at the top of his game, and an excellent summer read!