Peace, By Richard Bausch

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The Independent Culture

A small group of American soldiers is stuck in a freezing Italian landscape in the middle of winter during the Second World War. Almost as soon as Richard Bausch's novel starts, they are in a compromising situation: a German officer, hidden in a straw-laden cart, shoots two of the servicemen dead.

His companion, a German prostitute, is subsequently shot by the commander of the US platoon, Sergeant Glick. The others spend the rest of the novel watching for snipers and hunting German soldiers, unnerved by the cold-blooded killing as much as they try to justify it to themselves. Bausch's intense tale quickly takes on greater questions about integrity in war, about justice, and what matters to us most.

This is all achieved with a gravity and quietness that allows the book's soldiers, farm boys and fathers to become real to us. The soldiers have to decide whether to trust the baseball-loving teenager Mario, who promises to lead them to the German hide-out. Tension inevitably builds as they near their quarry, though there's nothing heroic left in them beyond a desire to get back home to their families.

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