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Best books for veterans army military navy marine Kip Cassino

That's them, walking down a long, empty road in Arizona or Colorado, Texas or New Mexico: Pauley and the Captain.


They're two war-damaged, life-saddened buddies looking for nothing more than a cool place to rest and earn a few bucks. They only move on when a murder occurs. One of them is a vicious, knife-wielding serial killer, who's ended eight lives in the last ten years.

Now, the F.B.I. has connected the dots between the killings. A task force is hunting Pauley and the Captain, forcing them out of the west on a desperate run to the east coast to hide themselves in a new part of the nation. Will they be able to escape those hunting them, or will one of them need to murder again? Which one of the buddies is the killer?

books for military veterans PTSD Kip Cassino

“Buddies” was judged gold winner in the Published Suspense/Thriller category this year by the Florida Writers Association.

Buddies Kip Cassino psycho thriller novel book

Available on Amazon Kindle or in Paperback


BUDDIES puts a twist on the murder-crime novel by teaming up the two war veterans who make survival their mission while events build toward ever-bloodier outcomes and the final, extreme rampage.

Captain and Pauley are buddies. These two former Afghanistan war veterans have formed a close partnership of drifters crisscrossing the United States. Their war wounds, mental and physical, are deep and bond them together. The trouble is the corpses left behind as this unit passes through their latest port of call and on to the next.

BUDDIES is a gripping thriller that tracks the continual movement of Captain and Pauley and the investigative team on their trail, comprised mainly of officials from the FBI and the Pima County, Arizona police department. As the duo strives to stay ahead of detection, the law enforcement team uses every tool and advantage to corral the suspected serial killers. BUDDIES captures the action of a cat and mouse game if the mice were deadly, wily truckers and the cat relied on the IAFIS fingerprint database and informants.

Author Kip Cassino writes with precision and authority that makes for an interesting read about the Veterans Administration bureaucracy to illegal drug distribution to FBI procedure to long haul trucking. Captain and Pauley are provided a deeper character study and even extended some sympathy despite the depraved and ruthless murders they commit. Cassino does not shy away from the pair’s life experiences, the trauma they faced in the war and the resulting mental and psychological anguish, some gleaned from details of nightmares and delusions. The pair help each other and provide a sense of security.

Even as the end approaches and with it a rise in desperation and a shockingly high body count, there is a dose of perspective mixed with revulsion for the characters. Not only are the inner workings of law enforcement and the two demented drifters explored, BUDDIES also gives a glimpse of the blighted side of scattered towns, as well as some of the bullies and swindlers who inhabit them.

Well-written and taut, BUDDIES offers some complexity in the characters whose perspective force the readers to contend with war, psychic wounds, isolation and barbarity.

- IndieReader

Kip Cassino’s new thriller, like his previous offering, The Narrow Man, follows a law enforcement team on the trail of a PTSD-afflicted killer.

The Captain and Pauley, veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are friends who share a fraternal bond. Damaged by their battlefield experiences, the two pursue a nomadic existence, with the Captain acting as caretaker for lower-functioning Pauley.

Their trauma is not the only thing that keeps them moving: Wherever the pair turns up, a murder occurs. When local authorities notice the latest killing is part of a wider pattern, they call in the FBI, launching a nationwide manhunt that soon targets the pair—even as the Captain makes one last attempt to turn his and his best friend’s lives around.

...Cassino’s portrayal of the two men’s vagabond life is haunting, in the tradition of classic American road novels and films. He artfully describes desolate backdrops against which the men travel, referring to Tucson as “an eye-level city, with few tall buildings,” for example, and to “the paved monstrosity of Phoenix.” The main characters’ friendship is also beautifully rendered, their mutual devotion reminiscent, with a gory twist, of George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men.

- Blue Ink Review

The premise is simple: two men trekking across America, leaving a string of violent outbursts in their wake, and the story of their tracking and takedown by the FBI. But BUDDIES is more than its surface description. The story follows not just murder but the men behind each crime, from the ones committing it to every human cog in the wheel that turns towards their identification. The result is a macro-lens exploration of damaged psyches and the ripple effect they have throughout the lives of others.

BUDDIES extends a great deal of sympathy to its wayward protagonists, the Captain and Pauley. As veterans, their histories are explored with compassion and understanding towards the traumatic experience of war and how it shaped both men's futures. The reader gets an intimate idea of what made these men who they are - which then becomes uncomfortable, with the realization that BUDDIES gives a look inside the mind of a killer.

But it's not just Pauley and the Captain that get this treatment. Almost everyone who crosses their path, from diner waitresses to VA nurses to the task force assigned with stopping their spress, gets an in-depth introduction and character sketch, bringing the reader fully into their lives...Ultimately it reads a bit like IN COLD BLOOD meets DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER: a sober meditation with special focus on individuals, sometimes mixed with displays of grisly violence and even nightmarish imagery. For fans of forensics, law and order, serial killers, or true crime in general, you won't be able to set it down till the foregone, yet still wrenching conclusion.

- Amazon Review

Buddies by Kip Cassino is a psychological suspense thriller that follows along the trail of two men, as they traverse through the United States, mostly on foot. Pauley and the Captain are a pair of companions who have a history together; a history that includes all of the terrors of war and sacrifice during their time serving their country in the Marine Corps. Both survived, but only in the sense that they are alive. Let down by the Department of Veteran Affairs, Pauley and the Captain have injuries that go deeper than a surface of burnt-flesh and scars, battling a mixed bag of combat related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and violent tendencies that come in waves—waves that come crashing down with a dead body and a move to another town.

Buddies is an interesting look at the effects of war on young men who are trained to kill in highly tense situations, but are often then let down when they return home, where there is little to no support in re-acclimating them to civilian life. Kip Cassino writes about this in this fictional account, with the narrative running somewhat like a stream of consciousness over multiple characters. It can feel like head-hopping at times, but given that we don't know whether it's Pauley or Captain doing the killing, it does work. Buddies is a solid anti-hero story, and as a reader it can sit uncomfortably when you're actually hoping a serial killer and his accomplice (complicit by association and cover-ups) do not get caught by FBI agents who are hot on their tails. But it's clear Cassino wasn't meaning to make us comfortable, and the haunting of Pauley and Captain's post-war violence will resonate for as long as governments ignore their duty of care to those who fight, kill, and watch others die on their behalf.

- GoodReads Review

Kip Cassino’s dramatic thriller Buddies follows fugitives from a society that they almost died to protect.

Captain and Pauley are military veterans, left physically and mentally scarred by their time in Iraq and Afghanistan. By taking a regular regimen of medications and keeping their heads down, they are able to eke out a living. But then Pauley’s rage is incited, and he cannot control his murderous actions toward troublemakers who inspire no empathy.

Again and again, Captain and Pauley try to sustain their lives in a small town, only to go back on the run when bodies turn up. One body attracts the attention of Jack Prell and his FBI team, who realize that it connects to a string of other murders in multiple states. Captain, Pauley, and Jack begin a cross-country, violent chase across many states and climates.

The men and the pursuing agents are viewed against backdrops like dust storms in Arizona and the high, cool air of Colorado. Characters’ travel methods mirror their positions in society; Captain and Pauley typically take buses, hitchhike, or walk, while Jack flies on Bureau-owned private jets. The places where Captain and Pauley stay are reflective of their predicament: they experience the desperate quiet of homeless shelter dinners and the desolate, dim static of a trailer television set.

The novel switches perspectives between Jack’s team and Captain and Pauley, blurring hero versus villain roles. Captain and Pauley’s relationship is tender and caring, and their platonic love and understanding are emotional. They have compelling and sorrowful histories, and their military experiences and traumatic transitions back to civilian life are sympathetic. Military terms are used in a realistic way, as is PTSD. Still, the novel draws uncomfortable lines between mental illness and violence.

- Foreword Reviews

This is a heartbreakingly fascinating story. It's suspenseful, original and filled with the real life consequences of PTSD. It was uncomfortable to read the majority of the time, but I still couldn't put it down. That's the power of a well written book I suppose. The narrative is confusing at time, since you don't always know who's thoughts you're reading, but it just adds to overall suspense of the story. It's a very clever premise, filled with the real consequences of war. Highly [recommend].

- Amazon Review

Violent serial killers are on the loose, but they have an intriguing and [traumatizing] back story that would twist all my emotions inside out as I read. I was quickly drawn into the novel and found it difficult to put the book down. Unlike many thrillers, I found the story gripping, emotional and believable.

The links with PSTD made it a deeply painful read at times and will serve as a reminder of the great cost of armed conflict on those who take part. It doesn’t read as a protest book, but I found myself reflecting on what a raw deal returning veterans get and how our society demands so much and yet seems to care so little. The author suggests that the protagonists ability to cope with society 'hung by a tenuous thread of medication’ as they battle their demons and the memories that don’t fade. Being chased by the black dog of poor mental health, they are driven to desperate and despairing actions and the story careers through unexpected twists and turns.

This book doesn’t sit neatly into the thriller genre as the author manages to mix a story of deep friendship born out of the shared horrors of war, with a genuinely exciting thriller. It was deeply moving and an agonising read at times, especially the epilogue , but ultimately one that I highly recommend.

-Amazon Review

Through Kip Cassino's writing we can now take a look through a window at the price we all have to pay long after the in-theater battle is over. I knew to think twice about the decision to put our soldiers into harm's way, now I know to think thrice.

-Amazon Review

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