Sapphire Pavilion, by David E. Grogan: an Old Crash Site in Vietnam Roils the Present

sapphireWhat is Sapphire Pavilion? Learning the answer may prove fatal.

Sapphire Pavilion ($15.95, 280 pages, 6×9 ISBN: 978-1-60381-603-8), by David E. Grogan, is book 2 in a series featuring retired Navy-JAG officer and Williamsburg, VA, attorney Steve Stilwell. Steve travels to Vietnam to free a fellow ex-Navy JAG from jail, only to stumble onto a deadly secret.

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Book 1, The Siegel Dispositions, is being reprinted as part of the Harlequin Worldwide Mystery series.

“A roller coaster of a thriller whose heart is a devotion to the struggles of veterans, those waiting to come home and the families of those who never will. [….] Accented by the call to recognize soldiers’ sacrifice, the story’s many threads weave a compelling exploration of veterans’ struggles then and now, and how they are far more similar than different. Grogan succeeds in pushing readers to think more deeply about wartime truths that remain buried overseas.”  Read more….

—Jackie Mohan for the Virginian Pilot

4 Stars: “Sapphire Pavilion is a tense thriller that builds slowly into a highly compelling plot. It deals with some heavy themes in a deft manner, especially with Casey’s journey into the past. The descriptions of Vietnam paint a portrait of a locale that is both sensitive and fascinating. It is technically a sequel, but it isn’t necessary to have read the book before this one. Sapphire Pavilion is a page-turner that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat from start to finish and is well worth a read.”  Read more….

—Mary Bennings for RT Reviews

“This is not about gems or architecture, and prior Stilwell experience is unnecessary. All you need do is allow this suspense novel to entertain you. [….] The situation brings international, military and political intrigue, a secretary of state who is tight-lipped about a relationship that goes back to when the city was called Saigon, a female agent who’ll muster any mystique for money, an Iraq veteran starting what she thinks will be a no-stress job at a small law firm in colonial Williamsburg, and a Vietnamese taxi driver who wants to get his family to the U.S. And there’s Stilwell, whose billable hours do not help his marital life. Throw in elements of bribery, treachery and ethics, and you’re hooked by the former Navy JAG officer’s second novel.” Read more….

—Military Times

5 Stars: “I really enjoyed this story and was engrossed in it from the first page. The intricate, fascinating plot deftly uses ‘what if’ to look back at a mission that might have happened during the Vietnam War era and convincingly creates the story from this imaginary incident [….] The settings are very vivid and I felt the heat and chaos in Ho Chi Minh City, and soaked up the bureaucratic atmosphere of Washington, D.C. and the small town aura of Texas and Virginia [….] This is a fast-paced mystery and thriller gripped me from the beginning. I enjoyed every moment of it.”  Read more….

—Dianne Ascroft, author of historical and contemporary fiction

“I have recently completed three military/Tier One/Black Ops thrillers each of which will appeal to a big segment of the thriller audience. [….] Sapphire Pavilion by David E Grogan is perhaps my favorite of the three. [….] “Totally plausible, [….] this book is a page-turner and hard to put down until the very end.” Read more….

—Mystery Maven Blog

5 Stars: “A gripping story that had me on the edge of my seat. I shall certainly be adding David’s first book The Siegel Dispositions to my wish list.” Read more….

—Yet Another Blogging Mummy

“Grogan’s richly layered writing style brings you into the pages, like a virtual reality. It’s more than an excellent read. It’s an experience.”

—Carine McCandless, author of the New York Times best seller, The Wild Truth

“A thrilling, intriguing tale, Sapphire Pavilion leaves you hanging by the seat of your pants. The fast-paced action is continuous, climbing every step of the way. With every turn of the page, you find yourself digging deeper into Steve’s unexpected circumstances. While this book is a part of the series, the author has written it in such a way that it also acts as a standalone. Will definitely be catching up on book one. Thanks for a great read!”  Read more….

—Lissette Manning,

“David Grogan’s Sapphire Pavilion is a page turner with twists and turns on just about every page. From a sleepy law practice in Southern Virginia to the streets and back alleys of Ho Chi Min City to the corridors of the U.S. State Department Grogan’s protagonist/retired Navy JAG Captain Steve Stilwell manages to piece together a long-buried truth that threatens to destroy him and others.” —Gene Pell, host of the nationally syndicated radio program, Veterans Chronicles

“This book is set in Vietnam. The American author wrote it while in Vietnam. And that’s why I like it. It’s an authentic portrayal of an oft misunderstood place and it shows how it is right now, today. The author could’ve relied on his imagination, secondhand research, TV, movies, the Internet, etc. But he chose not to. Instead, he did the legwork and brought current day Vietnam to life from his own personal perspective. And let me tell you, it makes for a much more interesting read.”  Read more….

—City Girl Who Loves to Read

“Let me tell you, this is novel is so chock full of suspense that you won’t want to put down, as you follow their dangerous pursuits through the openly corrupt Vietnamese system and back again to the covertly crooked one, existing in America. If you like political thrillers with jaw-dropping plot twists at the end, then this one’s for you.”  Read more….

—Tribute Books Mama

“A nonstop thriller, this second addition to the ‘Steve Stilwell Thriller’ can be read in order or as a standalone work. With minimal romance, but tons of action and conspiracy to unravel, readers will find themselves fully entrenched in the story.”  Read more….

—Sarah E. Bradley for InD’Tale magazine

5 stars: “Sometimes a supporting character really steals the show, and in this one it’s an ex-Army fighter pilot, who just so happens to be a woman.”  Read more….

—Laura’s Reviews

“The case file for Sapphire Pavilion looks as though it will be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s McGuffins, but it works well enough to carry the book’s plot along until the exciting end. If you enjoyed the previous book in this series, you’ll love this one, too.  Read and enjoy.”  Read more…
—Veteran Voices of America Books in Review II

Steve Stilwell’s former Navy JAG Corps buddy Ric Stokes has been jailed for possession of heroin in Vietnam. He was found in the same room with his traveling companion Ryan Eversall, who died of an overdose in the company of a prostitute. Steve knows his friend is a straight arrow. Was he set up? If so, for what reason? Steve travels to Ho Chi Minh City in search of the truth.

In no time Steve is targeted by the people who framed his friend. A beautiful young American businesswoman insinuates her way into the case. Can she really help, or is she just a dangerous distraction? Ric and Ryan came to Vietnam in search of an Air Force transport plane that disappeared in 1968. The pilot was Ryan’s father. Before the heroin bust, they had located the wreckage. Ryan’s notebook, which Steve manages to obtain, spells out the exact location. Ryan’s widow has given Steve’s associate Casey another piece of valuable evidence, a file labeled “Sapphire Pavilion.” Someone is willing to go to any lengths to steal both the notebook and the file.

From Virginia and Texas to DC and Vietnam, powerful, all-seeing forces with unlimited resources are determined to bury the truth about Sapphire Pavilion. But they have grossly underestimated Steve Stilwell and his associate Casey, a former Army pilot who lost her leg in a helo accident. And the ability to inspire loyalty wherever you go can come in handy when danger lurks behind every corner.

Says Grogan, “I wanted to write something that would honor Vietnam veterans in a very real way, while still entertaining and engaging the reader. There was one significant impediment: I had never been to Vietnam. I remedied that problem by traveling to Vietnam in July of 2014. I should say, once I dove into the former Saigon and walked its streets, ate at its restaurants, visited its historical sites, and talked to its people, the story wrote itself. By the time I left Vietnam, I had a solid start on the manuscript, a camera overflowing with pictures to help inspire later chapters, and a host of memories from all the people I met while I was there. Sapphire Pavilion is the culmination of everything I experienced on that trip to Vietnam, but most of all, it’s my salute to the war’s lost heroes still waiting their turn to come home.”

David E. Grogan was born in Rome, New York, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. A certified public accountant and an attorney with a master’s degree in International Law, Grogan served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for over 26 years as a Navy Judge Advocate. His experiences abroad and during the course of his career influence every aspect of his writing. Grogan currently resides with his wife in Illinois. They have three children. Click here to find Grogan online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

In the short period they had been sitting down, the sky to the east had grown ominous, with dark clouds jutting out from behind the tall buildings and heading their way. It didn’t look like a good time for a motorcycle ride, especially since he was carrying his planner with the notebook inside. Although it zipped closed, he didn’t want to risk getting the planner, or more importantly, the notebook wet.

“It looks like it’s going to rain,” Steve said. “Should we go someplace to wait out the storm?”

“No need,” Phan said, not looking at Steve, his head turned toward a man standing near a light post about twenty feet down from where Phan’s motorcycle was parked. “I give you raincoat.” Lightning flashed over the skyline as he finished speaking, with a gigantic boom of thunder reverberating through the air. As if on cue, all the motorcycles pulled off to the side of the road, their drivers and passengers donning plastic ponchos and raincoats before the storm hit. A few seconds later, the masses were all heading on their way again, their ponchos flapping in the wind behind them.

When they got to Phan’s bike, Phan lifted the seat and pulled two green plastic ponchos with hoods from the cargo compartment. He handed one to Steve and started to put the other on himself. “You put on,” he instructed. Then he drew close to Steve, his back to the man under the light post, and spoke quietly.

“That man under light post behind me was at hotel when I pick you up. I think he following us. You know him?”

Steve peered at the man out of the corner of his eye. He was now leaning up against the light post, nonchalantly smoking a cigarette and seemingly indifferent to the coming storm. After blowing a big puff of smoke over his head, he looked directly at Steve. Steve pulled the poncho over his head and pretended to show no interest. Phan was right; they were being followed.

“I don’t. Do you?”

“Me either. You get on bike and hold tight. Phan very good driver. I lose him.”

Another movie phrase, but this time Steve didn’t laugh. First someone tears up his hotel room; now some thug follows him. Although not exactly the way Phan would describe it, Steve knew it was his turn to be in for a world of trouble. The drug cartels or whoever else framed Ric were after Ryan’s notebook, but why? And once they got it, would they be content to take the notebook, or would they want to silence him as they had Ryan and Ric? The only way to avoid finding out was to keep them from getting the notebook. He straddled the bike as another bolt of lightning flashed across the sky and the rain started to blow in. He hoped Phan knew what he was doing.

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