by Nelson DeMille
4 stars - super main character, great story
Nelson DeMille writes big, fat books. This one was 620 pages. I run hot and cold with him. When they are to my liking, I can't wait to read them and start to get antsy as the end draws near, wishing they were twice as long. When they are bad, I usually toss them aside with frustration after 100 pages or so.
This was one of the good ones.
Here's the setup.
Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield get packed off to Yemen to track down and kill or capture The Panther. The Panther himself is a nasty piece of work. Born in the USA to parents who immigrated from Yemen, he somehow developed a deep hatred of the United States and went back to Yemen to become one of the top ranking terrorists.
He's gotta go and Kate and John are just the duo to do it. Trouble is, we're talking Yemen, FBI, and CIA. What a combination. Can't trust anybody. There are double and triple crosses and nobody is really telling it like it is.
The book made me curious enough about Yemen to want to look it up online, get a sense of the geography and the history. But you won't need to do that. Mr. DeMille provides a lot of that information in the book. These sorts of exercises often leave me confused and frustrated, but Mr. DeMille does a great job of meting out information in a manner that is easy to digest as well as highly educational. Short story is, stay away from Yemen. What a mess.
The majority of the story is narrated by John Corey himself. I liked him. He was very real. Just sarcastic enough to elicit a few chuckles, but also seriously concerned about his life and safety and that of his wife. He has some inappropriate thoughts and remarks that are clearly to compensate for the insanity surrounding him and not because he is some super dude who is immune to danger.
On meeting the CIA agent assigned to the mission:
Weird. And for the record, his handshake was more of a jerk than a shake, and the skin was cold. Maybe he was dead.
On entering the city of Old Marib:
The place was creepy, and the dark mud brick buildings looked like high-rise haunted houses. It was deathly still, except for a weird wind that whistled through the streets and through the shells of buildings, and small dust devils appeared and disappeared in the reeds and rubble. The words 'post apocalyptic' crossed my mind.
I mean, the place smelled dead - like old ashes and rotting... something.
Nothing overly literary or macho, just the regular human reactions.
By midpoint I had developed my own theories about what direction the story would take. It kind of went along with what I thought and kind of didn't. That's a good thing. The author provided twists and turns, but not for the sake of keeping you guessing. Every change of direction made sense.
There's plenty of action and danger and not a lot of mushy stuff. The characters are developed by how they react to what is going on around them rather than tedious back stories.
I'm just wrapping up a one week vacation. I recommend tackling this (or some other Nelson DeMille) under similar circumstances. This is a book to read in giant swallows, not to sip a few dozen pages at a time over a period of weeks.