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Book Review: Ghosts of Iwo Jima

Ghosts of Iwo Jima is a realistic and historically accurate novel about a group of dedicated searchers who travel to the island of Iwo Jima with two remarkable dogs to recover the remains of five young Marines missing for over seventy years. The story blends three fiction genres; there are realistic scenes of combat, and there are ghosts, but Ghosts of Iwo Jima is primarily a dog story. 

The plot revolves around four main characters: Gunny, a Golden Retriever search dog who leads the effort to find the missing men; Robby Durance, a young Marine who overcomes his fear and lives up to the legacy of his gallant ancestors, and dies on Iwo Jima; Sam Webber, Gunny's handler; and, Luke, a retired Military Working Dog, who, along with his handler, Steve Haney, is responsible for clearing the search area of unexploded ordnance. 

Overcoming some initial skepticism especially from the forensic anthropologist on the team, Gunny and Luke quickly demonstrate their value, but this proves to be the least of their problems. Shortly after the searchers arrive on Iwo Jima they begin to realize that not all of the twenty-six thousand young men who died violent deaths there are content to rest peacefully. The team is caught in the middle when two old enemies compete to influence the outcome of their mission. One of the spirits, a Japanese demon, focuses his murderous rage on Gunny, and Luke must risk his own life to save his friend. 

Ghosts of Iwo Jima proceeds in a series of scenes alternating between depictions of combat on Iwo Jima, the search for the remains of the five Marines, and the backstories of the major characters. These backstories include true to life accounts of K9 search and rescue and Military Working Dogs, and realistic depictions of combat in Vietnam and Afghanistan. 

This is a great story with suspense, humor, pathos, clear and interesting descriptions and good character development. A page-turner for sure. What a clever way to showcase the talents of an amazing dog and trainer. I highly recommend this book. 

Reader Reviews
I found this book extremely interesting. Characters, plot, and circumstances are realistic and informative. It was amazing to learn about the capabilities of the well-trained dogs. This is a very appealing read.
~George Marshall

Read this cover to cover yesterday and really enjoyed it. The description of the battle, body recovery, and search dog work are full of realistic details yet the book flows without getting bogged down in minutiae. The ghosts added a fun imaginative element. Joe also beautifully captures the deep and appreciative relationships between K9 and Handler. Enjoy! It is a fun read!
~Arthur S.

This book is a real page-turner. It gives you a historic look at the battles of Iwo Jima, as well as battles in Vietnam. The Search team is amazing and shows you in detail how these wonderful dogs work. The story keeps you on edge, with the search for the remains of our brave heroes who did not make it home from the Battle of Iwo Jima. You will be captured by this story and will not be disappointed.
~Brian Cook
Really enjoyed read the first novel by this author. Characters were well developed and the background adding to the storylines. Great insight to combat in Vietnam, Iwo Jima and rescue dogs. Looking forward to any new books by this author.
~Janet Bradley

A work from the heart! The combination of serving our country as a Marine and serving his community as the owner of a beloved rescue dog, Joe Jennings's new book reflects his depth of experience and knowledge that makes his new novel hard to put down. To this day the sacred soil of Iwo Jima is revered for the terrible struggle and the lives lost and changed on that remote piece of Japanese rock. This story takes you there and up-close to a particular scene and a fictional few men who met their fate during that battle. I sincerely hope that our nation, as well as the people of Japan, never forget Iwo Jima. Novels and historical accounts of World War Two often get lost in the horrific numbers of lives lost; Ghosts of Iwo Jima, although a novel, helps us to understand the individual stories of the very young men who battled there. The rescue dogs in this story provide a warm edge that helps to touch the heart. I hope that you will order and read this terrific book. Finally, I recommend that you order a copy for your favorite Marine as a gift of appreciation and love.
~Chuck Kelseyon

Impressive debut by the author. Very good read as I learned a lot about search and rescue as well as a few history lessons. Backstories are interesting and I felt I was there with the crew. Even had a part of the book pull at the old heart a little. I won't reveal what part as I do not want to spoil the story for other readers. Check this book out, you won't be able to put it down!
~ Abe's Beard

About the Author
Joe Jennings is a retired U.S Marine, Vietnam veteran, and, currently, a search dog handler with Great Basin K9 Search and Rescue in northern Utah. 

In his first novel, Ghosts of Iwo Jima, his experiences, combined with his love for dogs and U.S. Marines, form the core of his storytelling. Joe's stories have a ring of truth to them because he has, "been there and done that." Even the ghost stories are grounded in ancient religious and cultural beliefs. 

If you are a discerning reader of realistic fiction you may want to give this new author a look.