“Terrell writes an unsettling story about a female soldier’s operation to recover the corpse of a kidnapped sergeant during the Iraq War . . . What he also brings to The Good Lieutenant are the hard-to-get perspectives of people who don’t necessarily dominate the cable TV news: female soldiers in combat and ordinary Iraqis manipulating—and being manipulated by—the U.S. military.”—The Washington Post
The Good Lieutenant literally starts with a bang as an operation led by Lieutenant Emma Fowler of the Twenty-seventh Infantry Battalion goes spectacularly wrong. Men are dead—one, a young Iraqi, by her hand. Others were soldiers in her platoon. And the signals officer, Dixon Pulowski. From this conflagration, The Good Lieutenant unspools backward in time as Fowler and her platoon are guided into disaster by suspicious informants and questionable intelligence, their very mission the result of a previous snafu in which a soldier had been kidnapped by insurgents. And then even further back, before things began to go so wrong, we see the backstory unfold from points of view that usually are not shown in war coverage—a female frontline officer, for one, but also jaded career soldiers and Iraqis both innocent and not so innocent. Ultimately, as all these stories unravel, what is revealed is what happens when good intentions destroy, experience distorts, and survival becomes everything. Whitney Terrell’s The Good Lieutenant is a gripping, insightful, necessary novel about a war that is proving to be the defining tragedy of our time.
Whitney Terrell is the author of The Huntsman and The King of Kings County. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq and covered the war for the Washington Post Magazine, Slate, and NPR. His nonfiction has additionally appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Observer, The Kansas City Star, and other publications. He teaches creative writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and lives nearby with his family.