A Rendezvous in Haiti

After serving heroically in France during World War I, Lieutenant Robert McAllister is sent to a smaller but more complicated war in Haiti, where several groups of rebels have been fighting the marines (and sometimes one another) for five years. McAllister is not certain exactly who the enemy is, whether guerrillas or bandits. After the horrors of Belleau Wood, the young marine wants to kill only if he must.

McAllister’s main opponent is Louis Paul Blanchard, a French Canadian badly wounded in the Great War, who has come to Haiti as a cynical, aloof mercenary. The two are brought into more personal conflict when Blanchard kidnaps McAllister’s fiancee, Caroline Barbour, the daughter of a marine colonel. Caroline considers herself a worldly young woman because of her experiences as a nurse in France, but as Blanchard’s prisoner, she discovers sides of herself she never knew existed and, growing sympathetic to her captor, achieves something McAllister has never done: understanding the enemy.

Stephen Becker’s previous ten novels have earned for him a reputation as a writer of intellectual adventures in the tradition of Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene. A RENDEZVOUS IN HAITI is worthy of comparison to Becker’s best work, as it considers the way American good intentions can backfire, the numerous barriers in relations between races, the impossibility of always separating good from evil, and mankind’s generally ambiguous motives, especially in war. The novel can also be admired as an economically written entertainment similar to those of Ken Follett and Elmore Leonard. Its only significant flaw is that its hero is less credible and much less interesting than are Blanchard and Caroline.